Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Assassination in Sarajevo: The spark that started World War I

Assassination in Sarajevo: The spark that started World War I

Robin S. Doak
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 10 to 12
Compass Point Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-0756538576

Throughout history problems have arisen when powerful empires have tried to rule the people living in the countries that they have under their control. This was very much the situation in the Balkans at the turn of the century. After the Turks were driven out of the region in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian Empire claimed Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was supposed to be a temporary state of affairs but in 1908 the empire annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina and took firm control of the region. This infuriated many people and a movement to create a unified "Greater Serbia" gained impetus.

Thus it was that a group of young people who were angry with the Austro-Hungarian emperor began to plan an assassination. They wanted to show the world that they did not accept the emperor's rule and that they believed in a sovereign Serbian homeland. And so, when the emperor's heir came to Sarajevo, the group put their plan into motion. Their first attempt to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, 1914, was a failure, but later that day a young student called Gavrilo Princip successfully shot both the Archduke and his wife Sophie.

Unfortunately for the world Emperor Franz Joseph was eager to use the assassinations as an excuse to declare war on Serbia, and this is just what he did. What should have been a regional war escalated and became World War I. Millions of soldiers and civilians died, and in the end the Austro-Hungarian Empire fall apart.

In this Snapshots in History title the author tells the story of the assassination of the archduke and his wife from several viewpoints, which will help readers to understand what took place. On the one hand there was the Archduke, a hard man who adored his wife and loved his children. On the other there were the young men who had a dream, and who were willing to risk their lives to do their part to make that dream come true. The author not only describes the events that took place on that fateful day, but he also gives his readers plenty of historical background, and he follows through by describing what happened after the assassination took place. Readers will be left with a feeling of sorrow, and an appreciation for the vagaries of history.