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Anne: The Next Generation - L. M. Montgomery Describes World War 1

children's books about WW1

Rilla of Ingleside: Military History for Girls

It's not so difficult to get the average boy interested in World War 1 aviation (noisy engines, adventure, enemy attacks, etc.) If you want to get a girl interested, you might try giving her the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series, Rilla of Ingleside, which shows what the war was like on the home front, at least in Canada. (Interestingly different from the US; though the distance to the front was similar, for Canadians the war had been going on for almost 3 years at this point, while the US was just figuring out how to draft soldiers.)

Originally published in 1921, the book is a fun read with a lot of history, published when the war was too recent to think of as history yet, so the perspectives in the book (remembering back when everyone thought the war would be over by Christmas, for instance) are firsthand. While presented at a children's level, the story includes very serious themes such as the death of one brother, another who is taken prisoner, diphtheria, what white feathers were about, and different opinions about the war. But unlike a lot of current children's books which deal with serious subjects as if not daring to laugh, L. M. Montgomery had the ability to be serious in one paragraph and hilarious in the next, which is probably why her books have been popular for over a century. 

The book is especially interesting for coming at the end of a series which has already introduced older generations of the family, so it also shows how the war fit into the events older generations had experienced.

Canadian View of US Entry into World War 1

The Canadian reaction to the US declaration of war: "The States mean well," moaned Cousin Sophia, "but all the vim in the world cannot put them on the fighting line this spring and the Allies will be finished before that. The Germans are just luring them on."

Another character disagrees, "Things look good to me. The U.S. is in the war, and we have got Kut and Baghdad back - and I would not be surprised to see the Allies in Berlin by June - and the Russians, too, since they have got rid of the Czar. That in my opinion was a good piece of work."

Piloting Aeroplanes Is Cleaner Than Sitting in Trenches

Toward the end of the book, the youngest son decides to join the flying corps. The motherly reaction is, "And I cannot bear to think of him flying - and his machine crashing down - the life crushed out of his body - the dear little body I nursed and cuddled when he was a wee baby [spoiler alert: that would be too sad for a work of fiction, so he doesn't crash] ...at least flying is a clean job. He will not get so dirty and messed up as he would in the trenches, and that is well for he has always been a tidy child."

Later on, you get the sense of how times were changing, in ways that make even Internet innovations seem minor, during a discussion of aeroplanes and automobiles: "I am not sure I go so far as to approve of aeroplanes, though they may be a military necessity." One observes that "what with aeroplanes and automobiles and all the rest of it, [Prince Edward] Island is not what it used to be."

Another character wonders "if humanity will be happier because of aeroplanes. It seems to me that the sum of human happiness remains much the same from age to age, no matter how it may vary in distribution, and that all the 'many inventions' neither lessen nor increase it."

But another character replies, "It has always been one of humanity's favourite dreams - the dream of flying. Dream after dream comes true - or rather is made true by persevering effort. I should like to have a flight in an aeroplane myself."

The pilot character, however, is reported to be dreadfully disappointed. "He had expected to experience the sensation of soaring up from the earth like a bird  - and instead he just had the feeling that he wasn't moving at all, but that the earth was dropping away under him."

Least Said, Soonest Mended?

Interestingly, Rilla of Ingleside doesn't mention the influenza among the events at the end of the war, although the book is dedicated to a cousin who died in January 1919 of the flu. Maybe it was because war could be discussed with both humor and sadness, but the flu was unspeakable.

Learn more about World War 1 aviation from other books and movies we recommend; everything from Snoopy vs. the Red Baron to serious history books to a DVD about the museum's flying replicas to talks by the Vintage Aero Flying Museum director to our recommendations of books available through Amazon.


Pictures of Prince Edward Island and more about L. M. Montgomery at this homeschool history blog.

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