War for Kiddies

The Booktryst blog has an interesting piece by Stephen J. Gertz, giving details of Josephine and her Dolls, a book for small children published in 1916. The post reproduces some of the charming pictures, and some of the text, which describes how little Josephine faces a problem with her dolls:

I really wish that the dolls had never heard about the war. They are quite a nuisance now. What with Sunny Jim saying he wants to enlist, and Dora saying she wants to be a Red Cross Nurse, and Charlie saying he is Lord Kitchener, there is no peace. They will all talk at once.

I think I really must let Sunny Jim go to the war. I do not know whether the doctor will ‛pass’ him, as the back of his head is all gone, before ever a gun or shell has come near him. But he has such a pleasant face, I think the doctor will say: ‛Yes, certainly he shall go and fight for his king and country’…

The dollies play at war (Poor William has to be the Kaiser, because of his name. Little Josephine paints a moustache on his face, but he is not happy.) By teatime they are all tired of battles and nursing. ‛So they shook hands and were friends again, and all the people clapped.’

The earnest author (Mrs H.C.Cradock) gets across the pious message that quarrelling is bad, and the book is really rather nice. It is a good example of how adults searched for ways to explain the war to children.

So thanks to Stephen J. Gertz for blogging about it, but his comments about it are not all very convincing. To call this mimsy fable ‛a great, if unheralded, anti-war novel for kids’ and ‛the juvenile precursor to All Quiet on the Western Front ‛ is stretching things more than somewhat.

I’m dubious, too, about his suggestion that this was ‛the first book for children to directly address war from a child’s perspective’. It was published in 1916, and by then an awful lot of characters popular with the under-fives had become involved in the War.

Comics especially had gone to battle well before the end of 1914. This strip from Lot o’ Fun weekly shows patriotic Paul, the drummer boy, tricking some beastly Germans and earning the praise of an upright British officer.

You can click on the image to get an enlargement, but the text may still not be very readable, I’m afraid.
Thanks to Michelle for drawing my attention to the Booktryst post.


  1. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Stephen J. Gertz sense of humor is often irreverent, and need not be taken so seriously. But the site is exquisite, and the book lovers will find endless surprises there-

  2. Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    According to Saki there were prewar Toys of Peace http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/ToysPeac.shtml They wereundoubtrdly as ineffective in reality as in his story.

  3. Travis Johnson
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    how much would that comic be worth?

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