Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #4) by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale entertained people during an "Author Klatch" at the American Library Association conference this summer. The man never took a breath. Holding his iPad like an auctioneer, he showed the different helmets from this book giving funny facts and holding the attention of the ten people at the table. He had about three minutes to promote his book before a bell rang and he moved on to the next table. His pacing in real life is reflected in his Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. The latest novel, book 4, is a breathless overview of the complexities of World War I and all the players. Hale knows how to simplify facts, add humor, and provide visual aides that help not only students, but adults learn history. I always snag some weird fact from his graphic novels; this one had "Cher Ami" the hero pigeon. The countries are represented by animals adding terrific humor to a sober tale. His portrayal of the ever-growing mythical god, Ares, shows him normal sized and angry to gigantic and maniacal by the end, illustrating the insanity of the war. That said, the topic is so big and so overwhelming, I didn't like this book as well as the other three. Of course, I read it on a 25 hour start-to-finish trip to another country, so perhaps my jet lag was mirroring the war weariness of WWI. Hale's books are brilliant. I just wouldn't recommend starting with this one.

Nathan Hale (the character) tells Hangman and Provost about WWI using formal language that parodies so many dry historical textbooks students slog through in school. Provost loves it and Hangman is horrified. He wants something funny. Something exciting. He wants cute little animals. Hale obliges Hangman and the countries argue when they want similar animals. The Americans end up being bunnies and British bulldogs in a funny argument between the Provost and Hale. The animals help put some emotional distance between the reader and bloody war; however, the mind-blowing scale of death and destruction with the advent of trench warfare and new weaponry is still conveyed. The war ended more on weariness than one concluding victory.

I always learn more details from Hale (the author) than I ever did in my history classes. He adds little quirky facts that are memorable such as the assassination of Duke Ferdinand. I didn't know about the foiled first attempt and the Duke not seeking safety. Nor did I know about the cyanide pill that didn't work for the assassin. Hale shows the use of gas masks and the gas being changed during the war from chlorine to the deadlier phosgene. He shows how nationalism affected the war and how the Russian Revolution was an outgrowth of the conflicts. He covers so much ground and makes it fairly easy to understand. An amazing series.

4 Smileys

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