Five Children on the Western Front, The Village, and Valkyrie

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

I grew up devouring E. Nesbit’s children’s stories. She is probably one of my biggest subconscious influences as a writer. In a random article, I heard about this sequel to Five Children and It, which was for obvious reasons (I’m one of five) one of my favorites,  and just had to read it.
After Amazon had to order it from London, I was able to snuggle in with this book.  I cried in the first chapter and several times through.  This amazing book captures perfectly what it’s like as siblings in a large family growing up and trying to hold onto their love for each other while also going their own ways by reintroducing the magic of their childhood to the youngest two.
This amazing book tackles beautifully the horrors of WW1 through the life and magic of the family. You see the war through the magic and also through its effects on the family.
If you grew up with the Five Children you must read this book…just keep a box of tissues at hand.

Rated PG: Adult Issues because of the war.

The Village by Bing West

Sometimes it seems like there are no positive stories about brave warriors from the Vietnam war. There is no praise offered up to the men who fought in the war and no honoring of their acts and valor.

This book goes against the Vietnam grain and tells the story of a group of marines who live, sweat, laugh, love and die in a Vietnam village protecting it from the Viet Con. Not a long book, or overly challenging, it never the less pays honor and homage to these men.

I really enjoyed the book. It was well written, straight-forward, not to gory or gross, but offered a balanced and honest view of life in the Vietnam war. I found it fascinating to read about how the Americans had to learn what the Vietnamese considered a victory or a defeat. They weren’t always in agreement. The soldiers learned to work beside the villagers, trust them, and help them. The soldiers loved the village and protected it at all cost. It was wonderful to read a real life story about Vietnam not reduced down to hate.

This is a great story about some real American heroes.

Rated R: violence, sex, language.

Valkyrie: the story of the plot to kill Hitler, by its last member by Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager

I really enjoyed this book from the perspective of the story I’m writing, because I have a character who is on the “wrong” side of the war and decides to stay because of his men. Philip Boeselager was in the cavalry in WW2 under the command of his brother part of the time and also part of the plot to assassinate Hitler. He didn’t flee the country. He didn’t abandon his men. But he also didn’t stand by while horrible things where happening.

Told by the last living member of Operation Valkyrie, this book takes you through the life of Philipp and his brother Georg as German officers in WW2. It is touching, sad, inspiring, and wonderful to know that some Germans did stand up against the Nazis and all they tried to do.

I found it very interesting to learn that one of the leading men in the plot against Hitler was a Protestant. He believed very keenly that they must try to the very end to assassinate Hitler so that the world would know the Germans hadn’t all agreed with him. He pushed them forward when they thought about quitting by reminding them of the number of people dying every day under Hitler.

Another interesting point was their understanding that Hitler’s death wasn’t enough. They also knew they had to deal with the SS which coincides with stories you hear from the end of the war about Allies and Germans fighting the SS together.

Much of the story takes place on the Russian front which I haven’t. read much about. According to this book, there were Russians joining the Germans so they could fight against communism. That’s not something you hear about very often.

I think I read this book in about two hours. It would work well for a high school student wanting to flesh out their understanding of the war.

Rated: PG-13: not graphic, just war. No sex. No major language.


Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out what to say about this book. It is like the pinnacle of all slice of life stories as it follows Sam Damon from boyhood through WWI, WW2, and Vietnam. When you finish reading it there is a hollow in your heart from living a whole other life for a time. The writing style of this book is superb. I could recommend it on that alone. Myrer’s battle scenes are beautiful in their terror, horror, and glory.  His descriptions, both short and long, paint the picture of events in vivid words dripping with sweat, blood,and tears. His characters are diverse, broken, and glorious. Sam is the hero of the book but much of his tale is told from the point of view of those around him providing the reader with a 3-D view of the world.
I will admit that the WW2 section is my favorite, no surprise there, but it is also the hardest part to read.
If you are a history buff especially of modern military history, I can’t recommend this massive book enough. Go read it. Then you too can walk around feeling lost for a few days. 🙂

Content Warning: This is a story about sinful people living life. It’s not clean and it’s not pretty, but I do think Myrer did a good job of not wallowing in the darker moments of the story. It is full of Adult Content (war, military life, married life, unfaithful spouses, unfaithful friends, death, drugs.) and the reading level is pretty high, so college age and up would be my recommendation. I think it’s one of those books that could be wasted on high schoolers. I know I never would have appreciated it when I was a teen.

Quote of the Weekend

My Boy Jack


“Have you news of my boy Jack?”

Not this tide.

“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.


“Has any else had word of him?”

Not this tied.

For what is sunk will hardly swim,

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.


“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”

None this tide,

Nor any tide,

Except he did not shame his kind—

Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.


Then hold your head up all the more,

This tide,

And every tide;

Because he was the son you bore,

And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

– My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling who lost his son in WW1

(I stumbled across this hauntingly beautiful poem while doing a little research on Kipling after reading the Jungle Book which was part of the inspiration behind Neil Garman’s the Graveyard Book.)