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Brushes and Bayonets: Cartoons, Sketches and Paintings of World War I Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

Lucinda Gosling
Osprey Publishing
400 Hahn Road
Westminster, MD 21157

If you love cartoons and history, I’ve got a great find for you!  Brushes and Bayonets:  Cartoons, Sketches and Paintings of World War I ($34.95) is a collection of 250 cartoons and pictures from World War I that bring a unique and helpful glimpse into the lives and thinking of the British people during the war to end all wars.  Lucinda Gosling has done her homework by searching through archives of the Illustrated London News and culling some of the most salient, interesting, informative and just downright funny cartoons available.  The 200-page book contains work from many little known illustrators and from many who became famous such as Bruce Bairnsfather and W. Heath Robinson.  She begins this fine book with some background history of both illustrations and the illustrators of the time, as well as background on some of the major newspapers.  Illustrations have played an important role in civilization as they can often communicate important information or convey (or even shape) opinion about nearly any topic.  A cartoon takes only seconds to read, but can leave the reader with a deeper understanding or appreciation of complex ideas and events.  During wartime, cartoons can help keep the population informed about events, or help them gain an understanding of what life is like in a trench, or even help shape their opinions.
My family really enjoyed this delightful and informative book!  Each of the pictures has a brief paragraph explaining the background or history which helped us understand some of the historical and political references.  Many of the pictures were very poignant and showed us how difficult life was for the military men and women fighting in World War I.  Many of them helped us understand some of the political events and ideas of the time.  And, of course, many of them made us laugh out loud, such as the picture by W. Heath Robinson of several swimmers wearing funny fish and bird caps so as to avoid detection by the German U Boats.  While it is not intended to be a history of World War I per se, Brushes and Bayonets would be an excellent addition to a study of World War I.  Younger students would likely enjoy the lighthearted cartoons and would perhaps learn a bit about life in the early 1900’s.  Older students would gain much more depth of the difficult political, military and social issues of the time as they browse through page after page of illustration.  I would highly recommend Brushes and Bayonets for any homeschooling family who wants to add a unique, fascinating and very educational glimpse into life in Great Britain during World War I!

Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2008