Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nice Day For A War, Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in World War 1

by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott
This book, which is nominated for a NZ Post Children's Book Award is not just a book about the battles in the First World War.  It is a moving, personal story of one soldier, Corporal Cyril Elliott, and his war experiences.  Cyril signed up early for the war when he was only 18, you can sense the excitement he must have felt when setting out for this huge adventure, an adventure he seldom spoke of to his family after his return.  Cyril's story is told using parts of his diary, photographs taken from the places where he saw battle and was stationed during the war, and because of the personal connection between the author and his grandfather, the Cyril of the story, it is also very moving.  The book uses documents, photographs, quotes from other soldiers, anecdotes and comic style drawings to tell a war story which was horrific and heroic. You will see the medals soldiers were awarded, and see how the wounded were treated.  Using photographs from the time, artist Chris Sloan has drawn the Western Front with the places the trenches lay, and the descriptions alongside the drawings really draw you into the action on the Front.  You can see where the First Aid Posts tended to the wounded, where the Listening Posts were, and you can really see how dangerous it was for food to be delivered to the soldiers and exactly how miserable it was to be in the trenches. The comic parts of the book which graphically describe Cyril's fighting experiences are very well done, you really feel his fear as the bombs and sniper bullets rain down on him!

One of the best things about this book is that it clearly explains what life was like at the time for a soldier, and it does it in a clear way which is understandable and interesting for anybody whether you are young or old.  The journey Cyril made from New Zealand to Egypt and then on to France and England during the War is told in such a way that you gain a really good understanding of his experiences.  I'm sure that everyone who reads it will discover something new.  It would be a great book to read with a Grandparent or parent who will recall stories they were told by soldiers who had returned.  It is rare to find a book about war which is so accessible to everyone and yet which gives you lots of great information in a way that is meaningful.  I heartily recommend this book to everyone to read and to gain a better understanding of World War 1.


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