Treasa's Reviews > The War to End All Wars: World War I

The War to End All Wars by Russell Freedman
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Jan 06, 11

bookshelves: books-for-boys, children, grades-3-5, history, middle-school, non-fiction, war, mock-newbery
Read from December 24, 2010 to January 05, 2011, read count: 1

A well-written and well-researched account of World War I. Freedman managed to make a war that I vaguely remembered learning about in history class a personal and important part of history. I would not claim to be an expert on World War I after reading this book, but my understanding of the war has certainly been expanded. Freedman does a good job of mixing basic factual information with interesting tidbits that help make the people and events seem more real. And the use of photographs and captions is quite effective, both in making the war personal and in expanding the reader's understanding - words can convey a lot, but there's nothing quite like seeing photographs of the people, places, and battles that the words are trying to describe.

Freedman presents this book in a basically unbiased way - or at least as unbiased as I have ever seen a history book. He doesn't blame one side or the other - in fact, he mentions good and bad things that both sides did. As an American, I might be inclined to side with the Allies and focus on how terrible Germany's actions were, but Freedman's book showed me that the Allies were far from perfect and Germany was far from a complete villain. It was a great experience to read an account of a war that tells both sides of the conflict without any obvious bias.

As far as factual books about World War I for children (or even for adults, really - I learned a lot) go, this was superb. As far as it being a fun read.... not so much, but that's what I would expect from a book about a war. There were certainly humorous bits thrown in, but the overall tone of the book is so very somber. The whole way through, I felt that Freedman was reminding me how many lives were being lost needlessly. There was one battle in particular where he said something about the British losing 70,000 lives (I could have the number wrong since I don't have the book in front of me) for 5 miles of Flanders mud. Reading statistics like that is like having to swallow a disgusting medicine: it's necessary to hear that to understand the war, but it leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.

I thought it was interesting that Freedman ends the book by setting up for World War II. Perhaps this means we can expect a book on WWII next? I, for one, hope so.
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