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And no it does not end - to party. The cover of this book reads "You gotta fight for your right to free". Thankfully, most of us have not had to fight for our freedom. Over time it can be easy to take for granted the sacrifices made by another generation, but we hold our freedoms only because they were willing to fight for them and if need be die for them. I for one will not forget, nor will my children, so this book was part of our Remembrance Day studies for this year.
Who's Who in WW2 is a brief introduction, or remembrance of some of the most famous people from the 2nd World War. As an adult , I expected to know all of these names, but in fact there were a couple I did not, and I believe this will hold true for many readers.
The book begins with two pages of very brief facts on the war. This is the first book I have allowed my son to read with any photos from the holocaust - and I expected to answer quite a lot of questions on this. He was already far more aware of the situation than I had thought - he watches TV after all - and we do watch the history channel quite a bit Even if he is watching an unrelated programme he could see clips in advertisements. There is a photo of men on wooden shelves - most of them near starvation and a horribly emaciated figure, nude with a bit of clothing held over the private area. The details on the holocaust will be limited, as befits a book for very young readers, but may still be traumatic for some children. I had serious doubts about using this book, deciding to use it only because it contains sections on a few people that we were very interested in. In retrospect, it is just as well I did use the book. If he has already picked up bits and pieces from television - I'd rather share a few books and discuss the matter.
I will not include a complete list of the people featured in this book because you can easily find that yourself on Amazon. It has the most famous people, as one would expect : Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler etc... I think Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler were very obvious choices for inclusion as well. I bought this book because I knew it had a section on Alan Turing - who has been mentioned in other books we own, and one on Douglas Bader.
Alan Turing of course invented the Turing Bombe - which is not a bomb at all - it a computer or at least a forerunner of the computer. The Turing Bombe was designed to help break codes by making rapid calculations. A photograph of this early computer is shown and it massive. My son found it amusing that his mobile phone is a more powerful computer than this giant piece of machinery - but without this behemoth - modern computers might never have existed. A single short page is in no way adequate to begin to understand Turing's work, but it is a nice introduction and helpful basic knowledge, not just on the war, but on the development of technology.
Douglas Bader has been immortalised in film. He lost both legs when ignoring orders not to fly the plane at low altitude - he crashed. He was forced to leave the RAF but with the war pilots were in heavy demand and he was given another chance. Bader shot down at least 22 planes before being shot down himself and spending the remainder of the war as POW. He became famous for escape attempts, and this book reports that the Germans ended up threatening to confiscate his legs. Other sources say his legs were taken until he could moved to a secure prison. He ended up in Colditz Castle, the most secure prison in the Reich.
As mentioned there were a few names I was unfamiliar with. One of these was Chiune Sugihara who had the courage to go against the orders of his own government and issue visas to help 6,000 Jewish people escape Lithuania where he worked as a diplomat. He was later forced to leave the country with his wife and I have no idea what happened to them after they returned to Japan. I am well aware that he was not the only diplomat to take such risks, but I am glad they showed someone from Japan in a role other than enemy. I like to point out to my children that there are always good and bad on both sides of a conflict. I was also unaware that the prime Minister of Japan during the war was executed for war crimes. I had not heard of any Japanese war criminals being prosecuted. So there were a number of tings I learned from this book.
Besides Turing and Bader, my son was most interested in Violette Szabo a British secret agent - or in his words a spy and Robert Oppenheimer - because he loves explosions. We have in fact watch numerous test explosions online. In fact we looked explosions so many times I hope I do not appear on terrorist watch lists. I don't think he has a real concept of the level of devastation these things can cause. I have refused to buy him a book on Hiroshima. My children are past being frightened by fiction but I think most of us can still get a chill thinking of nuclear warfare. Even so he has expressed concern a few times and has been relieved when I have told him that no one uses these anymore and all the countries have agreed not to launch a first strike ( I'm not quite sure about that but it sounds good ). I've also explained that any country using the bomb would turn the entire rest of the world against them so the bombs will never be used - I'll pray to God I'm never proven wrong. the first nuclear bomb was called "The Gadget" - puts the term gadget - lover in a whole new light.
This book is part of the White Wolves reading scheme designed to provide engaging books in both fiction and non fiction for use in guided reading exercises. This book is listed for age 10-11, Above Average Readers. I don't know if this listing is completely accurate. I felt this was a very easy book for children to read and would certainly not have placed it above age 8 - but perhaps my judgment of reading levels is less than accurate. At age 7, this book presents my son with very little difficulty in reading beyond a few names and in all honesty I have no idea how to pronounce some of the names myself. I have simply taken a wild guess and gone with but I would place the odds of my pronouncing Chiune Sugihara correctly at less than 1,000 to 1.
The main text is in a clear black print, of a reasonable size on a white background with good spacing. Each page has one to three short paragraphs. Extra facts in text boxes may be slightly harder to read as these are in a slightly smaller and much lighter print over a pastel background. I would consider "numerous", "artificial"and "eventually" among the most challenging ordinary words in this book, plus there are apt to be a few words that the average child may not have read before such as "typhus", "magnitude" and "ghetto". Thankfully, these all seem to be included in the glossary at the back of the book.
This does fall within the realms of schools books as far as I am concerned. I believe it would most useful in a classroom or home education setting. It certainly is a good book, and well written, but I don't think this is apt to become any child's favourite bedtime story. It would be a wonderful resource for a child to choose a person to write about for school assignment, although they would certainly need additional sources of information. I could see buying this to help with school work at a more reasonable price. I paid £6 for this, which I felt was expensive, but worthwhile as part of our history curriculum. Current prices have gone up though - and as good as the book is - I can't really see paying £8.50 - £10 for a 32 page paperback book. I have in fact wanted to buy several more books in this series, but I have been put off by the prices. So I do recommend this book - especially for teachers and home educators, but even then I find it a bit expensive and I feel it simply too over priced for the average family book shelf. The only exception to this would be is you have a child who is a real WW2 buff as they are apt to come across some new information, but I don't think most children will read this often enough to justify the purchase price. The book itself is certainly worth 5 stars, and had the price remained £6 I would have given it this. Because current prices have gone so high - I am limiting it to 4 stars.