Goodreads: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood
Series: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #4
Nathan Hale condenses the history of WWI into an action-packed graphic novel, focusing mainly on the Western front. Revolutionary spy Nathan Hale, along with the provost and the hangman, interject to add humorous commentary.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is a clever graphic novel series on various aspects of American history. The premise is that Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale is about to be hanged when the gallows turns into a giant book that swallows him whole. He is released with the knowledge of all history and begins spinning tales for the provost and the executioner–each one extending his life, much like Scheherazade. Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood gives a fast-paced overview of WWI, focusing on the Western front for purposes of condensation. It proves an entertaining yet informative introduction to the war to end all wars.
This is the second Hazardous Tale I have read, the first being a biography of Harriet Tubman. I found Harriet Tubman’s story moving, gripping, and inspiring. It was a bit of jar to go from one person’s story to a book that determinedly attempts to cover an entire war (even as Nathan Hale protests this is pretty nigh impossible). Simply keeping track of all the countries and the preliminary politics was daunting, even though Hale (at the irreverent request of the executioner) codes all the countries as different animals for easier identification. Still, by the end, I felt like I had a better grasp on the war than I’d ever gotten in any history class.
Hale (the author) makes learning history positively fun with his keen sense of humor. Spy-Hale narrates the history, but the executioner and the provost often interject, appearing in the gutters or in front of the panels to often commentary or ask questions for clarification. The humor is perfect for the middle school audience I assume the books are targeted towards (though the often violent content matter means YA audiences can read the series and not feel like the history is being written for children). It also provides sometimes much-needed relief from a topic that spy-Hale continually reminds us was a great tragedy, a loss of life at an unimaginable scale.
The Hazardous Tales are a wonderful way to engage readers with history. They highlight often unknown aspects of the past, adding depth and complexity to topics that may have been covered superficially in school. An excellent addition not only to classrooms but also to personal shelves.