I thought this would be the most fitting book review for Armistice Day, considering all that is going on around us in the world. I do feel that perhaps we have become a nation who have forgotten the lessons of the past and maybe we need a little reminder.
So today I will be remembering those who lost their lives in not only World War I, but also the wars our soldiers have fought in since.
It was the day before Valentine's Day and Rose was on a train, speeding through the misty Kent countryside with her passport in her bag, her phone in her pocket and her grandad on the seat opposite, snoring gently. Rose hoped he wasn't going to dribble.
Published by Chicken House in 2014
Pages - 154
Rose's granddad takes her on a trip to Ypres, Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. It's the day before Valentine's Day, but Rose can sense the shattered old city beneath the chocolate-box new. And it seems that it can sense her too. When she goes up to her room that night, she hears the sound of marching feet and glimpses from her window a young soldier on his way to the front line...
Valentine Joe might be a slim book but it's a mighty one. An important book. One that should be read by teenagers through to adults, because it reminds us. It reminds us why so many have lost their lives in war. It reminds us of how much people have suffered. It reminds us that we never want to return to those times. They were not coated in a rosy tint of happiness. They were covered with tears and blood.
Valentine Joe represents the story of the young, innocent boys who signed up way too early to be soldiers. They were desperate to fight for their country like everyone else and many lost their lives because of it.
Through Rose's eyes, we get to see what it was really like to be a soldier in the trenches. The scene in the trenches made me feel so cold and depressed and I was only reading them. What must it have been like to live in those conditions?
This book easily transported me back to Ypres during World War I. It's frightening to hear the bombs going off and coldness seeps through your body. I've never been to Ypres, but I can only imagine it has the same stillness that I discovered walking up to the 9/11 memorial in New York. It's quite hard to explain. It's the kind of place, silence kicks in naturally as you recall past events. I think the author really brought Ypres alive within this story, because I honestly felt the same sense of quietness.
Joe steals your heart. He is cheeky yet caring and your rooting for his survival all the way through the book. He never gives up. His beliefs are strong and he won't be swayed.
Joe and Rose needed each other. They needed each other to help them move on with their lives. They show that you can't control everything that happens to you, but you can learn from it and find peace with it. This book is not only ideal for kids learning about World War I, but also those who have recently lost a loved one.