Happy Sunday everyone!
In keeping with my theme from last Sunday, this week’s blog post is a review of another book looking at WWI and Armistice Day. On the 11th November 2018, it will be 100 years since Armistice Day – the day WWI came to an end.
There are no veterans left to tell their story so I feel we have a responsibility to teach children about this bloody war and why we should never let it happen again.
And what better way to do that with the power of books…
“Lily has lots of worries. She’s struggling to complete in her fell-running races, and worse, she’s losing her gran to Alzheimer’s. But then she discovers her great-great-grandfather’s diaries from the First World War. Could his incredible story of bravery help her reconnect with her gran and even give her the inspiration she needs to push through and win?”
— Taken from Armistice Runner
When reading books to review, I usually take notes. I’ll write key points, thoughts that occur to me during the story, questions I have, and so on. When going back through the book and my notes for Armistice Runner I was struck by how subtly multifaceted it is. Palmer has shown immense skill by bringing together so many aspects and perspectives into what is a short-ish book.
As you can see from the synopsis, our main character is Lily. She’s a competitive fell runner and struggling to win her races. She’s dealing with a lot outside of her running, particularly coming to terms with her paternal grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. She and her grandmother have lost a connection they once shared, and it’s only with the discovery of a box containing Lily’s great-great-grandfather Ernest’s running logs that they start to bond once more. But Lily discovers they are not running logs but a diary of his time in the trenches during WWI as a runner – someone who would be trusted to take messages between stations on the frontline. Ernest then saves a young German soldier from execution by French civilians.
There is a powerful message in this book about how we and the younger generations can learn from the stories of the WWI veterans in order to empower our own lives. In Lily’s case, she sees what her great-great-grandfather endured but also how he endured it, and uses this lesson to push herself mentally and physically to the limit. She also learns to look at her competitors in a different light and see the person behind the kit, the same way Ernest saw the boy behind the German uniform.
Moving away from the past into the present, there is something both sad and beautiful about Lily’s experience of reconnecting with her grandmother. Anyone who has witnessed a loved one’s decline after a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s will know it is brutal and heartwrenching to see. But as we can see in this story, it doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from that person but learn how to reconnect with them on a different level.
There is no magical ending to this book. It is about truth, persistence, and hope. It’ll leave you full of emotion but hopefully with a slightly different perspective.
I would highly recommend this book for middle-grade readers and adults alike. And, as we move towards the centenary of Armistice Day, I hope it will serve as a gentle reminder that we should never forget.
About Barrington Stoke books
I wanted to add a note here about the wonderful books produced by Barrington Stoke. They pride themselves on producing books for “emergent, reluctant, and dyslexic readers”. The format of the books is specially designed to be accessible. They are books for everyone but are also a wonderful option for those who need a bit more encouragement or help along the way.
Many thanks to Barrington Stoke for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
More like this
Check out my post about David and Catherine MacPhail’s book White Feather.
What’s your favourite book on the First World War? Have you read Armistice Runner? Let me know in the comments below. I welcome links to other blogs and blog posts.
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