A thought I’ve kicked around for a while is a series of short stories, written for new readers (1st through 3rd grade level or so), specifically aimed at boys, who are not well served in most modern schools (what do you MEAN “no running in the halls?” It should be mandatory. They are kids!). Inspired by my own son’s complaints that all the books offered at school are “boring,” but an endless appetite for stories about war and battles, I thought that maybe the solution is to teach history by writing age-appropriate war-stories. Get them hooked on reading and history by meeting them where they are.
I think that a cleaned up, simplified, historically accurate battle story, with appropriate virtues and lessons taught, would be a good thing to have. Fighting is a fact of history; putting it in context is invaluable. I thought starting with Marathon or Salamis would be good. In fact, most ancient battles could be used. Modern battles? Maybe not so much, but I could be wrong.
Anyone out there have thoughts on the topic?
4 thoughts on “Battles for Boys”
As a teenager, I got a lot of enjoyment out of the stories of various Roman battles. Reading Livy’s description of Hannibal crossing the Alps — with elephants! — was inspiring. So while it’s not a battle, you could tell a part of that story. The narrator might be one of Hannibal’s elephant cavalry soldiers.
There may be good ones in the revolutionary war, too. The battle of Breed Hill (better known as the battle of Bunker Hill — and that’s part of the story, too). The commander’s orders to wait for the whites of their eyes. Also (again, not battle, but illustrates virtues nicely) a report from one of Washington’s winter camps, and the tough conditions the soldiers dealt with. Narrator there would be a private, who is trying to figure out how to make makeshift shoes.
You might read “Look to the mountain”. That’s a nice novel (from the 1950s, I think) set in 1750s New Hampshire. There’s a lot about what it means to be a pioneer there/then. (One neat detail: young man working on a cabin for himself and his bride — one room, 12 by 12 I think. He decides to put in a luxury item: a chimney.) Near the end of the book the young man goes off to join general Stark’s army, walking 100 miles or so across NH to get to the muster place. No big deal. Wow.
Yes, that’s the sort of thing I had in mind. Maybe first person story-telling, but definitely revolving around a person involved in the action. Sort of a military action themed series sort of similar to the Magic Tree House series by Osborne. I can see some parents being horrified at the thought of such stories, but I can see some others shouting “AT LAST!”
My seven kids (well, the ones that can read so far) have enjoyed the Childcraft “Stories of Freedom” book. It has a series of fourteen battle stories including German tribes fighting off Romans, Joan of Arc, and Charles Martel. How horribly inappropriate of those 1988 savages to include that last one…
But, the reading level is just a little higher than public school 1st through 3rd grade, though my kids were those ages when they read them, they were really strong homeschool readers. Also, the books had terrific illustrations. I think visuals make all the difference for boys.
In other words, great idea!
I think a lot of the Indian War battles are thrilling reading. It always sounded good when I was a boy. Don’t forget King Arthur and his knights (I know not truly historic but fun).
Real knights like Malta, Lepanto, and the largest cavalry charge at Vienna is cool.