This thought provoking story follows Lily as she uncovers the story of her brave ancestor. Lily has a lot of worries. She is struggling to compete in her fell running races and unable to concentrate on her training because she fears that she is losing her much loved Gran to Alzheimer’s. But then, whilst visiting her grandparents’ house she discovers her great-great grandfather’s diaries from the First World War. Gradually as his story of bravery is revealed Lily dares to hope that it could provide the key to a re-connection with her Gran and maybe even give her the inner strength and inspiration to win her next big race.
The First World War has been the subject of many children’s books in the past and inevitably there has been a flurry of new ones published to coincide with the commemoration of the centenary and this story by Tom Palmer is one of the best that I have read. Armistice Runner vividly portrays the reality of the suffering the soldiers endured in the trenches at a level that is appropriate to its target audience and by cleverly intertwining this with the difficulties faced by a twenty first century family he ensures that this important historical event feels relevant to today’s young readers.
Lily is an engaging character and as we get to know both Lily and her family in the opening chapters their relationships feel very believable. The stress her Dad is under as he worries about his parents, the niggling teasing from Lily’s little brother and the sad despair of her Grandad have all been captured and conveyed by the author in a manner which feels true to life and encourages the reader to care about these people and very quickly to become drawn into the story.
As Lily reads her ancestor’s diaries we learn about Ernest’s success as a fell runner in the Lake District and how he put this ability to good use in the war as a runner messenger. These brave men carried news along the front line and this was an aspect of the First World War that I knew little about. This story pays a moving tribute to these forgotten heroes. The connection between Lily and her great-great grandad is key to this story and it is this connection that provides Lily with the resilience and strength to tackle her rival, Abbie, in the next race.
This is a thoughtful book and ideal for introducing children to the history of the First World War and would be an excellent prompt for discussion on a wide range of topics including dementia, loyalty and forgiveness. I thought the ending was extremely well done providing a moving lesson in overcoming differences and reaching out to others in difficult times. However, this is above all a great story to be enjoyed for its own sake. I quickly became totally engrossed and enjoyed this book very much.
Last but not least, thanks to the lovely people at Barrington Stoke this book is accessible for many readers including those who may be dyslexic or are put off by very lengthy texts. The cover illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole is very eye catching giving the book great shelf appeal. A must have for school libraries and classrooms.
Tom Palmer has kindly produced a wide range of teaching resources linked to the book and these are available on his website. These include downloadable worksheets, theme ideas and posters. I also found the author’s notes at the end of the book both interesting and informative.
If you are looking for other books suitable for introducing WW1 to primary school pupils there is a very helpful list of titles collated by LoveReading4Kids
Booktrust have created a list of titles that may be helpful if you need to discuss dementia with primary aged children.