by Nathan Hale
128 pages, 2014
A few decades ago a cartoonist decided to tell the story of the Jewish Holocaust in World War II via an animal metaphor. He made the Jews mice, and the Germans cats, the good folk dogs and the collaborators were pigs. It was a dark story, of course, but the use of the animals made it slightly less gritty, and thus more bearable.
In Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, author Nathan Hale has done something similar for World War I. Each nation is assigned an animal: the Germans are eagles, the English are bulldogs, the Belgians are lions, the Ottomans are otters, the Russians bears and the Americans get stuck being bunnies, because eagle has already been taken. Hale does a good job of laying out the facts, and detailing the slaughter that amounted in the millions, but also lightening things up with doses of humor whenever he can.
I knew the basic facts of World War I already, but learned a lot from this overview. Of course a comic, particularly one presented in metaphor form, shouldn’t be regarded as an authoritative source, but it does provide a useful overview. Now if I want to find out more, I’ve now learned enough to know what I might want to read more about.
This book is one of in a series of “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales” referencing both the author Nathan Hale, and the more famous American spy Nathan Hale who lived 250 years ago, and who appears in this series as the narrator.
A couple cautions to share: this is a historic account that details the death of millions, so even though it is in animal/comic form parts of it would be too much for the very young. I’m not talking about gore – there isn’t any – but rather the story itself. Also a language advisory: a couple of “good heavens”s pop up, a “holy moley” and in one instances a character says, “ye gods” (page 73).
I’d recommend this for children 12 and up, though some kids might be able to handle it as young as 10.