cover image Five Children on the Western Front

Five Children on the Western Front

Kate Saunders. Delacorte, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-553-49793-9

Published in 2014 (the centennial of the start of WWI) in England, where it won the Costa Children’s Book Award, Saunders’s moving homage to E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It is an irresistible read for a wide range of readers. In a daring move, Saunders delivers a sequel to the classic fantasy, taking up the characters in 1914 (except for a few instances of time travel), adding a new sibling, and not just reviving the Psammead, but providing a backstory for the “senior sand fairy” that has its own suspenseful movement. Comfortably blending fantasy elements with an English period piece about a close family, Saunders (The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop) doesn’t shy from the tragedies of WWI, but handles them with a tender sadness, eschewing any hints of sentimentality or melodrama. While readers might be slightly incredulous at the outcome of one horrific event, Saunders casts it in realistic detail. A satisfying epilogue closes the book with the mix of notes that arise from its pages: family, magic, sorrow, and joie de vivre. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)