________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008


Frightful First World War. (Horrible Histories).

Terry Deary. Illustrated by Martin Brown.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2008.
140 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99325-8.

Subject Heading:
World War, 1914-1918-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4


All Germans who lived through the First World War remembered not only the lack of food, but the frightful food substitutes that they were forced to eat – known as "ersatz" food. As the war dragged on, exhibitions were held all over Germany to demonstrate the huge range of ersatz food and drinks.

For example...

Bread soon contained flour made from beans and peas, and often sawdust was added. Cakes were made from clover and chestnut flour. Meat was replaced by the rice lamb chop or the vegetable steak (pale green, made from spinach, spuds, ground nuts and eggs substitutes). Butter was "stretched" with starch or made from a mix of curdled milk, sugar and yellow colouring. Eggs were made from a mix of maize and potatoes. Pepper was "stretched" with ashes.


Frightful First World War was originally published in 1998 and is being re-issued, along with a number of other titles in the successful "Horrible Histories" series written by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown. These books are humorous looks at history "with the nasty bits left in" in order to encourage children to become interested in history. Although Frightful First World War primarily looks at Britain and World War I, it also covers facts of interest from other countries, such as the ersatz foods from Germany. Terry Deary approaches this topic with his usual sense of humour and varied approach. Information is presented in a variety of ways, including cartoons, correspondence, lists, timelines and through quizzes.

     Intended as recreational reading, Frightful First World War does not cover World War I in depth. Everything is kept age-appropriate, and the humour provides a good way to get children more interested in history. In addition, the presentation style allows for Deary to bounce from topic to topic, moving from spies to slang to animals. This approach keeps things moving for those with shorter attention spans, but Deary still covers a wide range of information. Frightful First World War contains many black and white illustrations which are mainly part of the text. The illustrations add a lot to the books, allowing information to be easily understood by a range of age levels while maintaining the book's humorous tone. There is an index at the end which allows most topics to be found easily. Overall, Frightful First World War provides an amusing look at a topic which does not always lend itself well to humour. The information flows easily through the years of World War I, and the writing style will attract a range of readers.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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