Dear Jelly: Family Letters from the First World War edited by Sarah Ridley is a slim volume which has been published specifically for the centenary year of the start of World War One.
It was given to me by the Amazon Vine programme in exchange for an honest review.
The book consists of a series of letters from two brothers, William and Robert Semple who were part of a large and loving family, and who were sent to the front in France in 1915. The brothers were not posted to the same place, and their paths never crossed during the war. The letters here, are with one exception (a letter written to their mother) all written to the brothers’ two younger sisters, Mabel and Eileen (the eponymous Jelly of the title).
The book is pitched at primary aged children. I would recommend it for children aged seven to eleven/twelve. The letters are perfect for this age range. The brothers write funny, gentle letters to their sisters, peppered with cartoons and jokes. It is obvious that they are trying to allay their sisters’ fears, and reassure them with regard to what they are going through.
Because of this, and because the censor would not have allowed them to go into much detail about what was really happening, the letters in the book are interspersed with text which gives the background to what was happening in the war, where the brothers were posted, what their jobs were etc.
The gap between the story the letters tell and what was really happening, adds a wonderful poignancy to this slim volume and is part of what would make it such a fascinating study guide for any teacher wanting to teach WWI as a topic in this centenary year, or in fact any year.