Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Eyewitness: World War I

Eyewitness: World War I

Simon James
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 10 and up
DK, 2001   ISBN: 978-0789479396

When the world began a new century in 1900 the political situation in Europe was in a very volatile state. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia were jockeying for position while Britain, France and Germany tussled over their overseas dominions and trade. In short, the major powers were itching for a fight, never thinking to consider what such a fight might be like. It was indeed very unfortunate that the leaders of these nations did not look at what had only recently occurred in the United States. The Civil War in the U.S had been a truly terrible and horrendously bloody war, the losing South having to pay a terrible price for her bid for independence from the mother country.

What these leaders and their generals did not understand was that one could no longer fight a war in the "old-fashioned" way of lining up soldiers and charging. Too many men died when this was done. However, the generals were determined to stick to their old ways of doing things, adding a few "modern" refinements such as poison gas, to their repertoire. The result was a war "to end all wars" which practically stripped Europe and its dominion lands of a whole generation of young men.

It all began on June 28th when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. This dreadful event was blow quite out of proportion by Austria-Hungary and used as an excuse to declare war on Serbia. Russia supported Serbia and in turn France supported Russia. When Germany invaded neutral Belgium, Britain felt that she had to stand by the small lowland country and before anyone could quite catch a breath the whole region was on fire.

This excellent book describes the political background for WWI but it also covers the more intimate and unknown details of the lives of the soldiers who had to fight on the battlefields of France. We learn about life in the trenches, aerial combat, the casualties and what it was like to be wounded, the role of women in the war, the battles and war fronts that existed all over Europe (and Africa), and much more.

The text is accompanied by DK's signature heavily annotated full-color photographs of items from the times described, black and white photographs of the period, and maps. This is yet another book from the superb "Eyewitness" series.