Monday, May 14, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Voices of World War I (Ann Heinrichs)

Summary of Voices of World War I: Stories from the Trenches (by Ann Heinrichs):
This non-fiction selection is broken into seven chapters.  The first chapter gives a basic overview of the war—how it began, who fought in it, and what were some of the effects.  People representing both sides of the war are highlighted in the middle chapters, each with a unique perspective.  Richenbacker was an American ace pilot who was shot down during battle.   Fortunately, he survived the ordeal.  He continued serving as a fighter pilot and went on to shot down 26 German planes.   Botchkareva was a Russian peasant woman who fought alongside men in the army.  Later, she went on to organize and to train an all-female battalion who fought bravely in the trenches.  Kamara was an African warrior who fought on behalf of the French.  Many of his countrymen, also, battled in the trenches with him.  The European warfare was very different than he was used to.  Empey was an American soldier who fought in the British army.   He shares his experience with the deadly gases—tear, mustard, phosgene, and chlorine—that were used to kill many of his comrades and enemies.  Spiegel was a German u-boat commander.  In the cramped and uncomfortable quarters of these vessels, he served as a commander.  He painfully recalls torpedoing a boat full of horses.  The final chapter describes the end of the war.   Heinrichs emphasizes the similarities between the two sides in the bravery they displayed and the hardships they endured.   The book concludes with additional resources for biographical information on each of the people whose stories are highlighted as well as sources for additional information on World War I. 

Author Ann Heinrichs emphasizes the personal and human side of the war.  By examining it from multiple perspectives, she suspends any judgment about fault or moral superiority of those who fought.  There are photographs of each person and additional information about the general experiences of those who fought in similar circumstances.  The sweeping context of the war is revealed in the many places the battle occurred—air, sea, and land .  People from different countries and backgrounds reflect the diversity of individuals. The book is relatively concise which makes it easy to read in one sitting or it can be broken up into smaller ones focusing on 1-2 chapters.  The biographical information is fascinating.  I finished wanting to know more about each of the people.  Also, I would have liked to see a bit more background information about the war, but that can be found easily elsewhere.  There are three additional books in this series covering the American Revolution, American Civil War, and World War II.  Voices of World War I: Stories from the Trenches is a nice accompaniment to a study of the Great War.   I recommend it for ages 9 and up for either independent reading or educational instruction. 

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Unit Study:  a great resource for a study of history, WWI, or war
  • Research:  learn more about the specific people showcased in this selection or about warfare during WWI
  • Writing:  after further research, write a journal entry through the perspective of one of the real people who fought it or as a fictional solider
  • Geography:  locate each of the countries on the map; identify their capitals and a few significant details about the culture or terrain
  • Journaling:  write about which story you enjoyed most and why
  • Literature:  read a historical fiction title such as All Quiet on the Western Front or selections suggested HERE and HERE
 This week, head over to Ms. Yingling Reads for Non-Fiction Monday.


  1. I'll definitely have to take a look at this one. Most of my boys prefer to read about WWII, but I think WWI is more interesting.

  2. This sounds like great book! I really enjoy non-fiction war books. I need to give it a try. Thanks for the review.

  3. Very comprehensive review. Looks like something I would really enjoy. I have to look for this one. Thanks for sharing.


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