2014 marks the 75th anniversary of outbreak of the Second World War, and Ladybird has just published a book about it. Ladybird Histories: Second World War is a brilliant introduction to the subject for children.
Fully illustrated and written in consultation with experts at Imperial War Museums, the book presents a clear and concise overview of the reasons the war began, events such as the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, and who the key leaders involved were. Perhaps most interestingly, it looks at the impact of the war on the general public.
The Second World War affected millions of ordinary people and not just those fighting on the frontline, so lots of people have stories to tell about their wartime experience. As children or young adults at the time, their stories are especially interesting for children to hear today. Listening to the first-hand experiences of life on the ‘Home Front’, evacuation, rationing, air raids and the like is fascinating for children, their parents and teachers.
With this in mind, the Ladybird team set out to record some of these memories. During our interviews with some well-known children’s authors and others with a connection to Ladybird and Penguin, we heard stories that were in turn surprising, sad, frightening and funny, but all ultimately incredibly interesting and emotive.
Our first interview is with James Bond actress Honor Blackman, talking about her time as a teenage motorcycle messenger during the Blitz. You can listen to this now over on our Soundcloud Channel.
We will be releasing one new story a month and have got lots of great interviews coming up, including Paddington Bear author Michael Bond who recalls working for the BBC in Reading, when the building he was in took a direct hit in a bombing raid. Michael escaped because he was in the top of the building but the bombs had hit the floors below. There, forty people lost their lives and 150 were injured.
Janet Turpin vividly describes being terrified during an air raid warning. Unable to get home from school in time, she tells how she clung to a tree in a neighbour’s garden. Listening to her story, it is easy to imagine just how scary the war was for young children.
There is humour, too – several contributors spoke about the silly noises that could be made by blowing into a gas mask. And others, including Postman Pat creator John Cunliffe spoke of their wonder at seeing a banana – a rarity during rationing.
Something that we hadn’t expected to hear about was a sense of excitement. Those who were adolescents when the war began, such as Eric Hill and Michael Bond, remembered the sense of bravado that they had felt.
Listening to these personal experiences was incredibly interesting and often moving. It made us think about our own friends and relatives who lived through the war and how it must have been for them. We’re sure that you have relatives with stories to tell. You might be surprised at what they can tell you!
Win Win Win!
We’ve got three copies of the Ladybird Histories: Second World War book to giveaway. Just leave a comment below, letting us know what favourite period of history you would you like to see covered in a Ladybird Histories book? Enter by midnight, 30th March. Three winners will be chosen at random and notified by 1st April. T&Cs here