cover image Archie’s War: My Scrapbook of the First World War

Archie’s War: My Scrapbook of the First World War

Belle Yang, Marcia Williams, . . Candlewick, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3532-9

Williams (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales ) inventively expands on her signature comic-strip style in this oversize, paper-over-board work, ostensibly a scrapbook made by a 10-year-old Londoner between May 1914 and November 1918. With Archie’s comics at the center, its heavily collaged pages chronicle the events in the character’s own life and in the turbulent outside world. Period photos, ephemera and newspaper excerpts supplement the comics, and a timeline of WWI milestones weaves across the bottom of many spreads. Postcards and other correspondence from the front, “written” by Archie’s uncle and father, lift up or fold out from the page—one is even tucked into an envelope. One especially poignant letter, from Archie’s uncle, describes the famous Christmas 1914 cease-fire that occurred spontaneously in the trenches in France. Characters die; sustain injuries in battle; and survive explosions at home and even a bombing by Germans; but Archie, realistically, has other matters on his mind as well, like the disappearance of his dog or, more happily, learning about birds when he and his mum evacuate to the countryside in 1918. Although young “Archie’s” style doesn’t mature over the course of war, Williams otherwise maintains a child’s perspective believably enough, and her lively format will encourage even reluctant readers to take a close look at the details of a disastrous event. Ages 8-12. (Dec.)