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Book Review: ‘Postcards from a War’ by Vanita Oelschlager

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It is always difficult for children when a parent goes away to war. Children are often scared and confused; they don’t understand the reasons for the war, but they often have a keen appreciation of the fact that their mother or father may not return. It can be difficult to assuage those fears while maintaining a realistic view of the situation.

Children’s author Vanita Oelschlager has drawn from her own experiences in World War II when her father went away to war and she has penned a book for boys and girls whose parents are serving in the armed forces. Postcards from a War is narrated by a young boy, Matthew Brian Jackson, whose mother is in the Air Force. Matthew spends time with his grandfather after school and expresses his fears and confusion about this war that his mother has gone away to.

Grandfather Brian tells Matthew all about his own time in World War II when his father went away to war, and he shows him all of the letters and postcards that his father sent home.

Postcards from a War is beautifully written. By telling the story of World War II through the grandfather’s eyes, young readers will be able to draw their own parallels to their experiences today. So, for example, when the grandfather talks about discovering some of the horrors of the war through newsreels, young readers might relate to that without necessarily being exposed to such disturbing images themselves.

What makes this book especially notable is that original photos, letters and sketches from the author’s own father, Colonel Wilfred Bauknight, are included. This provides a wonderfully authentic feel to the story that the grandfather is telling his grandson (and in fact, the character of the grandfather is based on Vanita’s own brother Brian).

In addition to these original documents, illustrator Mike Blanc has illustrated the book using sepia for the grandfather’s World War II recollections and full colour to depict the present day scenes with Matthew and his grandfather.

Postcards from a War is a short book aimed at readers aged 6 to 10 but one that will no doubt find a place beneath the pillow of many a young child waiting for a parent to return from active service.

Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager is available to purchase from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand.
  • Mike Blanc

    I really appreciated your review. I agree the authentic postcards from Vanita’s father and the story based on her brother made it a unique book. Thanks for reading and reviewing, Mandy!

    • http://www.emminlondon.com/ Mandy Southgate

      No problem, Mike. Your illustrations worked really well in the book, especially with the alternate use of sepia and colour to illustrate the historical and present day perspective.