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Grannie Annie, Volume 11 and Echoes from World War II: Young Writers Sharing Family Stories Review by Rebecca Ray

50+ Students from Across the United States
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration
P.O. Box 11343
St. Louis, MO 63105

Sometimes we get the feeling like history involves dead people who lived long ago. We feel like these people had no bearing on our lives now, and we wonder why we might have to study it. Even though I, as a lover of stories, developed a love of history long ago, sometimes I find that I struggle to consider the people that we read about in history books to be real people just like me. Imparting that love of history and its importance to my children is an even more difficult prospect. So, when I received an opportunity to read a couple of the Grannie Annie books with my children, I was intrigued and wondered if they would help history come to life for them.

The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration is a nonprofit corporation that invites young people in grades 4 through 8 to interview members of their family and to write stories from their family history. Students can then submit their stories to The Grannie Annie for consideration for publication in their annual volumes. (While stories can be submitted year round, please check the website for submission deadlines in order to be considered for publication.) I received the most recent annual volume, Grannie Annie, Volume 11, and a compilation of World War II stories entitled Echoes from World War II: Young Writers Sharing Family Stories for the purposes of this review.

Grannie Annie, Volume 11 is an annual collection of stories and pictures from 46 students in the United States. The stories were all written as parts of family history from interviews with family story keepers and were submitted to Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration.  These stories are published in order of the historical period that is covered in the story. Some stories are as early as the Civil War period and have been handed down through families, but other stories are as recent as September 11, 2001.  There are stories set here in the United States, but other stories are international, such as a young man’s story about his father and grandfather’s failed attempt to escape Vietnam.

Echoes from World War II: Young Writers Sharing Family Stories is a collection of 46 stories from the World War II era that have been previously published in various annual collections of Grannie Annie. Many of the stories share details of experiences in escaping Germany, surviving concentration camps and fighting in the war. However, there are even experiences about growing up German during the war or living in Japan and seeing the bombers overhead while working in the rice fields.

The stories in each of these collections are short.  Usually each story is around two to three pages long, which makes it an easy book to pick up for just a minute or two here and there. My son, who has an interest in World War II, completely took over that book and has regaled with me with details about food rationing, and a cow that helped a family to flourish when those around them were starving.

I went through Volume 11 with my daughter and we read the stories together. She wants to be a writer someday, and she was amazed that children her age and a little older had really written stories that were published in a book. She was even more amazed when we got to a story on the Challenger explosion, and I was able to share my childhood memories of that day with her. Finding out that I was in college on September 11 was just icing on the cake for her to realize that our family was a part of history. She has paid far more attention to asking people their stories, including her instructors and her grandparents, and she has paid far more attention to current events since then. She now realizes that what she is living today will someday be a part of history.

I found these stories to be highly delightful. The writing is uneven, but that is to be expected from student submissions, and it is a great source of encouragement for young writers to see other young writers in print. My daughter has discussed writing down a story for submission this year, and while I do not know if that will actually happen, I do know that experiencing these stories has shown her and my son both that what we study in history is real people, real stories, and life that is happening around them all the time. In my mind, that is a very good thing.

-Product review by Rebecca Ray, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016