Crossing the divide: 5 wonderful children's books about war and peace

Published on: 17 July 2018 Author: Anne Booth

Anne Booth's new novel Across the Divide tackles issues of war and peace, protest and conflict between friends and family members, so we asked her to tell us about the stories that influenced her...

Across the Divide

In thinking about the issues of war and peace in children's books, I thought I would share some I loved as a child - and which I know have influenced the way I approached the idea of war and peace in Across the Divide.

1. All seven of the Narnia books... for this, The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle

The Last Battle is the last in the series of Narnia books, each of which I love, and all of which I have read and re-read many, many times.

As a child I was by particularly struck by, and loved, the bit at the end of The Last Battle where (spoiler alert) someone who has been identified as evil turns out to be good. The young Calormene soldier Emeth, who has fought against the children and Aslan in the army led by the evil Tash, is called 'Beloved' by Aslan because of his sincerity and goodness. It made me think, even as a child, that it is wrong to judge others and place people too firmly in the 'enemy camp'.

2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Behind this well-loved story about the March girls is a 'real' war - the American Civil War. The girls' father is away working as a pastor to the soldiers and then gets badly injured in the conflict.

We see how people at home, who are not soldiers, can squabble and fight (who can forget Amy burning Jo's manuscript?) But they can be brave too - Jo selling her hair and Beth bravely going to help a sick family and then battling with life-threatening illness herself are two prime examples.

3. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer

Charlotte Sometimes

Charlotte travels back in time to 1918, when the war is still taking place, and ends up in lodging with the Chisel Brown family. You learn about their anguish after losing their son, Arthur, in the war, and the family's attempt to hold a seance to contact him. I am sure this classic book influenced my research for and writing of Across the Divide.

4. The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay

The Skylarks' War

This book, which will be published later this year, is about relationships between friends, cousins, siblings, parents and grandparents, with all the fun and conflict and peace-making and uneasy truces this inevitably leads to. But it also has as its backdrop the First World War.

Most of it is based at home, but we have one incredibly searing and powerful short section where we experience what one character is living through at the front.

5. The Goose Road by Rowena House

The Goose Road

I am in the middle of reading this wonderful children's historical novel, just published, about a French girl in 1916, whose father has been killed in the war and whose brother is away fighting. It has some very endearing geese in it and I am constantly worrying how they are going to survive!

Across the Divide is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishers).

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