The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature; Pierre-Jacques Ober, illustrated by Felicity Coonan & Jules Ober
There are many excellent fiction books that bring to life the horrors of war and tell the stories of the brave men and women who fought in them. The Good Son is one of the best picture books I have read on the subject of war and does a superb job of telling the story of one brave young soldier.
In 1914 the world went to war. A war that should have lasted months lasted years. One such young man who went to fight a war that he did not start was Pierre. Like everyone else, he had been told that the war would be over by Christmas but when December came around there was no end in sight. Good-hearted Pierre was close to his mother and so headed home for two days to spend Christmas with her. When he returned to his regiment he was imprisoned and charged with desertion and was sentenced to death - high command deciding to make an example out of his actions to ensure that other soldiers would not follow in his footsteps. And so it would be, that a young man torn between being a good son and a good soldier who fought for his country would have his life taken at the hands of his own regiment.
The Good Son is a moving and powerful story based on an actual event. It is such a heart-breaking and harrowing read and you immediately feel for the situation that these young solders find themselves in. Persuaded by propaganda to fight for a cause bigger than their own and their actions to be controlled by those in high command who sit far away from the battlefields. You feel for Pierre - a young man who is lost and confused, trying to fight for his country, trying to make his mother proud, caught up in something much bigger than he can comprehend, and whose life is ultimately valued as worthless even by those men that he serves.
Due to its content this book will not be suitable for all children, but those who do get to read it are in for something rather special. It perfectly portrays one young soldier’s experience of war. From signing up to leaving family behind. Marching through scenic countryside before finally reaching the brutal battlefields where loss of life meant little. It captures the horrific consequences of war, where for the young men fighting it a win still felt like a terrible loss. Soldiers - tired of fighting, tired of marching, tired of carrying equipment and who would rather be captured than fight anymore. This was the reality of war.
The book is beautifully presented in hardback, the pages are thick and I can best describe it as a work of art. The artwork within was created using miniature figures, staged scenery and natural lighting, and the end result is stunning. Each scene has been intricately created down to the most minute detail and then photographed to create the most beautiful pictures. The story is told in very limited text, pages having just a single sentence or phrase to move the narrative along - this is more than enough. It means that the eyes of the reader are kept firmly on the pictures as we are drawn into their world and share their experiences.
Heart-breaking, harrowing and emotionally charged. This is a very special book that will deeply move any reader that has the opportunity to experience it.
Recommended for 10+.