Adult Books CORL (Check Off your Reading List) Challenge 2014 GB Challenges It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes War, Poetry, Refuge, Peace

[Monday Reading] Snapshots of Life During the War in “The Last Flower” by James Thurber and “Archie’s War” by Marcia Williams

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Fats here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.

Sign up here to join us! Thanks to Iphigene, we now have our July-September linky up and running. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Slated by Teri Terry to two lucky CORL participants from July-September.

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.


“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”
— John Steinbeck

lastflowerThe Last Flower: A Parable in Pictures

Written and illustrated by: James Thurber
Published by: The Wooster Book Company (1939)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

Last November, I read James Thurber’s award-winning picturebook, Many Moons. Myra wrote a review on the book in one of her Monday Reading posts in 2012. James Thurber’s books, The 13 Clocks and The Wonderful O, were featured in Myra’s NYRB Reading Week special in 2010.

Today, I am sharing another work from the brilliant mind of James Thurber. The Last Flower is a short story—a parable—about war. As noted on Amazon, The Last Flower was written two months after World War II began, in 1939. James Thurber dedicated the book to his daughter, Rosemary, “in the wistful hope that her world will be better” than his.

The Last Flower contains alternating text and images, and it could be regarded as a graphic novel in Thurber’s time. The book does not only tell a story of war but it also illustrates the cycle of war and peace that is still relevant to this day.

World War XII, as everybody knows, brought about the collapse of civilization. Towns, cities, and villages disappeared from the earth. All the groves and forests were destroyed and all the gardens and all the works of art… Books, paintings, and music disappeared from the earth, and human beings just sat around, doing nothing…

Photo taken in San Diego.
Photo taken in San Diego.

Despite the terrible things brought about by war, hope remains. It comes in the form of a flower that a young woman and a young man nurtured together. The existence of the flower brought peace, love, and unity back on earth. This flower—the last flower—was able to endure the cruelty of war and carried on.

Although the words and illustrations in the book are so simple, James Thurber’s The Last Flower provides a beautiful insight into the human condition, as is always reflected in his works. There is a constant struggle between man and nature, man and others, and man and himself. For as long as man is not satisfied, he would always find himself in conflict.

war3Archie’s War: My Scrapbook of the First World War 1914-1918 by Me, Archie Albright, Aged 10 Years

Written and designed by: Marcia Williams
Published by: Candlewick Press (2007)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

In Archie’s War, Marcia Williams presents World War I through an interactive albeit fictional scrapbook, created by a ten-year-old named Archie Albright. The book used alternating indigo- and sand-colored stock papers for its pages. It combined text, cutouts, comic strips, photographs, drawings, speech bubbles, and newspaper clippings. Archie included a timeline of the war at the bottom of some pages, and history tidbits on the side.

Archie’s War chronicles the experiences of Archie and his family in London during the first World War. Everyone in Archie’s family was patriotic, except his older sister, Ethel, who favored peace over war. What Ethel did not realize was that war could change people. Later in the story, after the Germans started bombing London from Zeppelin airships, Ethel would join the war effort. She and her grandmother would serve tea every evening to wounded soldiers who came back to London from the trenches.


Archie’s uncle was the first in his family to fight in the war. He would write the family letters, telling them about life in the trenches. Sometimes, he would send Archie some drawings to put in Archie’s scrapbook. When the British needed more manpower to drive the Germans away, Archie’s dad and Archie’s best friend’s dad joined as well. Lord Roberts, a field marshal, sent a message to all the children of Britain to explain why their Mother Country has decided to fight the war.

You have all heard of the war; you have all heard of the fighting forces sent from every part of the Empire to help the Mother Country. Why are we fighting? Because the British Empire does not break its promises, nor will it allow small nations to be bullied.

Germany, however, was bent on war, and on dominating other nations. Britain did her best to keep the peace, but Germany (breaking her word) marched her armies into Belgium to try to conquer France.

Children of the Empire, this is why we are at war—to hold our promises, to help our friends, and to keep the flag of liberty flying not only over our own empire, but over the whole world.

Although it was a little challenging to navigate around the book—there are images and text all over the place—Archie’s War was able to describe the effects of war to a nation. Men, young and old alike, were asked to sign up to fight. Women worked while the men were away. Families fled to a safer place. Young boys and girls left school at 13 years old to work. Taxes went up but wages remained the same. Commodity prices increased and supplies were running short. Soldiers suffered psychological trauma (PTSD/shell shock).

Archie’s War contained a lot of stories and information. While some of us are fast readers, it does not hurt to take a little time reading each page in Archie’s scrapbook. The pieces of information on the side are a treat for readers, and the inclusion of actual photographs is splendid. A child’s insight into life during the war is always fascinating. Of all the books I borrowed, Archie’s War is definitely the only one of its kind.

Currently Reading…


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I am 2/3 done with the book and I plan to finish it before July ends. I love love love Willow Chance! I can’t wait for the virtual book discussion that Myra, Iphigene, Karen (Myra’s soul sister), and I will be having in August. Wheee~!!


The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi

I fell in love with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series that I decided to borrow two of her children’s books. I finished reading Monster Are Afraid of the Moon the other night. I just started with The Sigh this morning. I also borrowed the movie version of Persepolis and will probably watch it sometime this week.



Reading Challenge Update: 154 (25)

18 comments on “[Monday Reading] Snapshots of Life During the War in “The Last Flower” by James Thurber and “Archie’s War” by Marcia Williams

  1. What a great round-up Fats! Lovely! Welcome to Monday reading! I haven’t read any of Satrapi’s graphic novels yet, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed them. I am currently fascinated with Joe Sacco. I’m on a non-fiction graphic journalism rage right now – he is first of his kind, I think. You should familiarize yourself with his works too. Unbelievably fascinating. It would be interesting to know how Daniel would respond to a few of the issues raised by Sacco in his graphic novels too, seeing that ze boyfriend has served time in the military.


    • Fats Suela

      Thank you! I think I would enjoy reading Satrapi’s The Sigh more than I did Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon. The Persepolis novels are very good. I saw some of your non-fiction books on Goodreads. I will look him up and see what books of his we have in our library. =)


  2. I need to give James Thurber another chance. You should read William Ayer’s To Teach graphic novel adaptation.


  3. I loved Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series too — I will definitely look for The Sigh.


  4. Just finishing Persepolis tonight! What a reading experience!


    • Fats Suela

      Yes! She wrote it so beautifully that I have no words to properly describe it.


  5. readerbuzz

    I am trying to read the 1001 Children’s Books, and I’ve noticed there are very few books from Asia. That’s too bad, I think.

    Here’s my It’s Monday!


    • Fats Suela

      Ah. I agree. We have quite a number of Asian literature in our library, but I’m sure there are more that we are missing. Have a wonderful reading week!


  6. Love the Thurber books, & will look for The Last Flower, Fats. I love the idea of Archie’s Scrapbook. I used to have students create scrapbooks for characters they studied in history. This will make a terrific mentor text for that kind of challenge, plus for those studying war, or WWI, it will be a treasure. I loved Counting By 7s too, glad you are liking it! Thanks for all!


    • Fats Suela

      Yes! I enjoyed Archie’s War. Children will have so much fun reading it, I think, and it’s good motivation for them to create their own history scrapbook! I am almost done with Counting by 7s. Yay. =)


  7. I LOVED Counting By 7s! It’s interesting though because I initially abandoned it when I had the ARC. I must just not have been ready to read it. But a few months later I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was AMAZING. She got Willow Chance just right. A perfect example of when the audiobook surpasses your own reading experience.


    • Fats Suela

      I’m glad you gave the book a second chance. Willow is one of her kind, isn’t she? Now I’m curious about the audiobook version of it. I just might have to look that one up in our library. Thank you, Beth! =)


  8. Really interested in The Last Flower – sounds like a powerful book. Also jumped over to your nonfiction post and picked up a few new ideas there too. Thanks!


    • Fats Suela

      It is, indeed! It’s very short but very powerful. I’m glad you found our nonfiction post helpful. Happy reading this week! =)


  9. I plan on reading Counting by 7s soon as well. I look forward to hearing you all’s thoughts on it.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂


    • Fats Suela

      Hi Kellee! I hope you like Counting by 7s. I am excited for our discussion as well. =)


  10. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Healing the Traumas of War Through Art in “The Orphans of Normandy” by Nancy Amis and “I Dream of Peace” by the Children of Former Yugoslavia | Gathering Books

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