“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Fiona Reynoldson / Edition: New edition / Paperback / 64 Pages / Book is published 2002-07-02 by Heinemann Library „
I've always liked Winston Churchill. OK that isn't exactly the whole truth. Laugh if you wish, but after reading the book "Winston Churchill's; My Early Life " when I was quite young, I was positively enamoured of him. Truth be known, he was my first crush. Of course he was already dead. Churchill has never been accused of being overly modest, he didn't mind writing of himself as a hero, but never before or since in my opinion had there been such dashing gallantry. As I grew older, and learned more about his leadership in the 2nd World War, my respect for the man only grew. But as much as I like Churchill, and have read a fair amount about him, this book showed him in a new light to me, and if anything my admiration has deepened even more.
I bought this book for my son. As he is home educated I have been attempting to teach him history - even though it is no longer really a school subject. My intention is that he should learn both British and Irish history - but the British books are much easier to come by. With my feelings for Churchill, it is only natural that I should want him to learn about this great man. I chose this book for two reasons. First it was cheap. Current copies are selling for £2.81, but I believe I paid a bit less for this. The second reason is that it is part of the Heinemann Library of educational books.
Heinmann is best known for Heinmann Maths, which I believe are mainly used in Scotland, but are also very popular with home educators. Heinmann Library is a collection of non fiction books for young readers marketed to schools and libraries. This company has since be relabelled as Raintree when the company was bought out by an American firm. I have bought a few other books from this Heinemann range, and always found them to be of high quality, well written and easy for children to understand.
This book is 64 pages, printed on a gloss paper. My copy is paperback, but this is also available in hardback. There is a very good selection of photographs, which as one might might expect are mainly in black and white, The book begins with Churchill's birth and give a very brief history of his childhood. There is also some information on the world into which he was born, and the life of poorer children at this time as well. There is a rather pitiful picture of two young boys from a very poor background at this time, and my son did find this a bit disturbing.
The book soon moves into Churchill's army career, and there is one extremely moving photograph of Churchill taken my the Boer's who had taken him captive. Churchill stands on his own, looking bold and defiant. There is such a spirited gleam to his expression, and even a look of mastery, one could easily believe he was the captor, and the Boer soldiers looking rather downcast, his captives. I think my son enjoyed this section of the book the most, and I'm sure any boy would be moved by the battle on the train, his capture and daring escape.
The next section covers the 1st World War, and while for the most part this was nothing new to me, my son was moved by Churchill's shouldering the entire blame for Gallipoli, and we can both understand his desire to try anything to end the carnage in the trenches. I was impressed to learn that Churchill and Lloyd George had both been against the harsh terms of the peace with Germany. I can't help but wonder if these men had prevailed, if there ever would have been a second world war. Churchill's record on the general strike was less impressive however.
I had expected the second world war era to dominate this book, but while it is covered quite well, it has only a little bit more space than the other chapters. This covers Dunkirk, the destruction of the French fleet, and the Battle of Britain, as well as bit of the frantic negotiations to secure American assistance, and Churchill's dealings with Stalin as well. There is also a bit more than I expected on the post war years and the legacy of Winston Churchill.
This is a school book to my son. It is a book he enjoyed, and even asked to hear the end of, but it isn't a book he will read every day. At age 7, he could read this, but would struggle with it, and I feel ages 8-9 would be a more appropriate reading age for this. I read this out loud, as I prefer with things like this so we could discuss and issues that arose. I have to admit to a huge sense of maternal pride at the look in his eyes as I read him Churchill's famous speach after the Dunkirk evacuation. I am pleased to see he takes such pride in his country. I think this book is a wonderful resource for children to learn to respect their nation's heroes, and to feel pride in their nation. I'm not talking about extremism, but a simple pride in the fact that Britain stood when every other nation around them fell. I think this is something we should never forget.
I enjoyed this book as well. I may be an adult, but I still find all of this very interesting. But one quote in this book moved me beyond anything else, and allowed me to see Churchill in a new light. Yes, he could be ruthless but this quote shows his humanity as well. This shows he was not arrogant in victory, but was able to appreciate the suffering on both sides - that makes him all the more a hero in my eyes. He must have had the weight of the world upon his shoulders, I have always admired him - but never envied him. I truly felt for him reading this, so I will close this review by sharing it with you:
"my heart is saddened by the tales of the masses of German women and children flying along the roads... before the advancing armies... The misery of the whole world appals me, and I fear increasingly that new struggles may arise out of those we are successfully ending".
( Quoted directly from this book, page 48).