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Review: Hazardous Tales. Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood

Every time I learned about World War I in school it was a brief overview of one of the deadliest wars in history. The version I learned went something like this: Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated. Everyone takes sides. World War I happens. It ends. The Allies slap Germany around so that their economy is devastated and the people are resentful, which paves the path for Hitler to come to power. Really. I promise. That’s how I learned about the world’s deadliest war. We never learned why anyone would want to assassinate the Archduke. We didn’t learn why anyone would care. It was glossed over so we could get to the “important stuff” that came next, World War II. So was I ever glad Nathan Hale decided to take up this overwhelming topic in his latest Hazardous Tales graphic novel.

Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books. 128 pp. ISBN 978-1-4197-0808-4
$12.95 hc.
Suggested for grades 5+

What I did learn after reading this book was that World War I was confusing. There was a whole lot going on, and America didn’t have a whole lot to do with it until the very end. (Okay, that last bit is probably a bit of an understatement.) Hale opts to portray the countries as animals. He does this in his usual humorous fashion, but it helps the reader keep the different countries straight and to be able to follow a very complicated story.

There are no characters to root for. But rather after reading this, I was left with a very empty feeling. What was the purpose of World War I? With the Civil War, one of the outcomes was the end of slavery. At the end of World War II, Hitler’s attempt at world domination and the annihilation of millions of innocent lives was put to an end. But why was World War I even fought?

The artwork is colored in tones of orange. The panels are small and detailed, filled with images of trenches, explosions, and soldiers being exposed to gas. One of the most gripping images of the book is the representation of war, using the Greek God Ares. He is shown again each year, and each time the image of him is bigger and more overpowering.

Hale touches on everything, but “touches” is the optimal word. There is a lot happening here. And no aspect of World War I is discussed in any depth, except for the fact that this was a mess of a war fought for no reason at all.

A great addition to any library. A perfect read to supplement a unit on World War I in an American History Class.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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