One hundred years ago to the day, the body of the Unknown Warrior was interred in Westminster Abbey. It is impossible for me to imagine the conflicting impact of that event and I am nearer than many people of my age to the First World War generation. My maternal grandfather fought in the Great War long before he married my Grandma. My mother was a late youngest child, being born just as Europe stood on the brink of another horrific conflict. Inevitably Grandpa never talked about the war but, when we studied it at school, it was him – a real living person – that I thought of. Perhaps that is the reason for my long-term interest in that awful period of history.
Publishers of books for children and young people have spent the last ten years sharing that interest. The centennial commemorations were a clear focus for them and some wonderful books were written. Barrington Stoke, publishers extraordinaire, have given us a small but perfectly formed collection of books set around the First World War: Tom Palmer’s Over the Line and Armistice Runner; Tilly’s Promise and Until We Win by Linda Newbery; Paul Dowswell’s Wave; Michaela Morgan’s Respect; Anzac Boys by Tony Bradman. And now (finally, perhaps) another book from Tony.
When eleven-year-old Daisy hears about the plan to honour the unknown fallen of the Great War, she wonders if the chosen soldier could be her Dad who was posted missing, presumed killed. Gradually she becomes obsessed by this idea and convinces herself that it is true. Sneaking away to follow the gun carriage from Victoria Station, however, she becomes part of a swirling mass of people, many of whom are holding on to the same hope as herself. And it is then that she understands the significance of the Unknown Warrior.
Tony’s book, illustrated by Tania Rex, is short and simple. It is not really about Daisy but about the national act of remembrance and, as such, it is an ideal introduction to the topic of Armistice Day and now Remembrance Day. Tony touches on many reactions to the war and outcomes of it and, if you are giving this to a child to read, I suggest that you make sure you know enough to deal with the many questions it is likely to raise.