This is the first book I have read about World War I. It has been reviewed as being "anti-war" and "pacifist," however I truly think that those words are too strong for this work. The book provides a window into what life was like in the German trenches of WWI through the eyes of soldier Paul Baumer. This fictional tale gives the perspective of one soldier as he tries to reconcile all that he has been taught about the glories of war with the realities of life on the front lines and the conclusions to which he comes on some of the issues he faces. It is an honest, although not overly gruesome, telling of the discomfort, fear, agony and camaraderie felt by the troops. Deliberately absent are tales of weapons, airplanes and battle strategies. The story is written in a pattern of stream of consciousness, so the reader is along for the ride. In this, the twenty first century, when war has been reduced to a sound bite, it is a good thing to get an idea of what our soldiers are facing as they go about their work. I recommend All Quiet on the Western Front to high school students and adults.
This week I also read The Singing Tree, another book set during the time of World War I - The Great War. I was very interested in this book because it is set in my grandmother's native land of Hungary around the time that her family left their homeland for Ellis Island. This book describes the life of one family at home while the men are off fighting the war. I was delighted to get a glimpse into the history and culture of life in Hungary. Underscoring the necessity of family and community, I would recommend this book to those in the fifth grade or above.