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At the beginning of the school year, my brain swirls with thoughts for lessons, and this time I'm going to do something I've never done before. I'm going to share a book I just shared yesterday. Some of you read my posts on Monday, but some do not, and this book is too good a mentor text for history research and presentation to ignore.
A long time ago I discovered The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. My daughter and I loved it, and then I used it for creative writing purposes, to show how someone can present information through letters, and so on. It's a delightful book that can be used for all ages. And probably many of you know and love it.
Then, someone recently shared a new book, Archie's War by Marcia Williams. I was able to check it out from the library, and I am mesmerized. What a marvelous experience to read (and pretend) is this scrapbook of a ten year old boy in London, right before World War I begins, and through the war. It is filled with comic drawings and loads of ephemera that the fictional character Archie has collected. All of these teach us about the war, tidbit at a time! There are two funny characters that follow along in some of the pages, ripped out news clippings, photos, and most pleasurable of all, letters from the front that one can actually pull out of an envelope or unfold and read (like The Jolly Postman)! As the months go by, Archie’s pages become more serious. At first it’s quite fun to play at war. But when his Uncle signs up, and goes to France, then his father and others, his mother goes to work at the father’s job, the family chores weigh heavily on Archie himself. In the timeline of things that occur, like the Zeppelin airships bombing London, the brother growing old enough at 16 to go himself, the mention of food, or lack of food, Archie begins to know that war is not fun; in fact, it’s terrible. This is a book to examine again and again, and I’m impressed with the research Marcia Williams had to do in order to include so much.
Of course if you are studying World War I in your curriculum, this would be wonderful, yet even more it can serve as a mentor text for other kinds of research communication. When my class had American history as its class theme, one of the assignments I did give was to choose a person from our US history, research, and create a scrapbook as if the student was that person. This is a similar kind of thing, and wow do I wish I had had it to show students during that time. I've also had students create letters that show history events happening over time, another interesting way to present information. I hope those of you who believe this will be helpful will find and enjoy this book, Archie's War!