Review: The Frightful First World War

Book: The Frightful First World War (1998)
Author: Terry Deary and Martin Brown
Genre: MG, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

frightful-first-world-warBasic plot: This is one of the books in the Horrible Histories series. The introduction puts it this way: “History can be horrible. So horrible that some boring old fogies think young people should not be told the whole, terrible truth… Of all the history in the world, the story of the First World War… is perhaps the most horrible… But it’s also a story of courage and craziness, brave people and batty people, friendships and fierce hatreds, love… and lice.”


1) The book gives the history of World War I in bite-sized chunks. Each year of the war (from 1914-1918) has its own little timeline.

2) It includes little games/quizzes. For example, in the 1915 section, they ask which of the following is true:

  1. British spies used girl guides to carry their messages (as long as the girls promised not to read said messages).
  2. An American spy (for the Germans) was arrested after his socks were tested and shown to have invisible ink on them.
  3. A German spy put up a poster offering £5 to anybody giving him info about the warships in Portsmouth.
  4. British spies were told that (when they were in Germany) if anybody took an interest in them, they would end up having to kill that person. “So don’t waste time. Do it.”

(The answer is of course provided in the book.)

3) The book is peppered with lots of cartoons to illustrate various events during the war. This is definitely one of the highlights… and will definitely appeal to the reluctant readers. (And non-reluctant readers like myself!)

4) I thought that the explanation about the causes of World War I was particularly easy to understand. Usually, all you get is that the Archduke was shot and thus began the war. But this book explains the whole history behind the assassination… beginning with the failed attempts and the final one that ended the Archduke’s life.


1) Some of the jokes are groaners! (But maybe you’ll think that’s cool.)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is definitely a fun read! I’d recommend it for anybody who has an interest in history; but it will also appeal to those who don’t. (And for those who don’t, they just might learn something about history!)


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

10 thoughts on “Review: The Frightful First World War

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