Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project to reach Project Gutenberg is another example of juvenile fiction from the World War I era: Our Young Aeroplane Scouts In France and Belgium by Horace Porter. Like Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, this was published in 1915, before the United States’ entry into the war.
In the novel, two airplane-loving friends, Billy and Henri, find themselves drawn into events as the war unfolds in France. Much of the narrative involves Henri’s efforts to retrieve his family’s treasure from the war zone, but the story is highly episodic and contains a variety of different scenarios. Its portrayal of death and combat is fairly unflinching for a children’s book. The writing itself is quite slangy and filled with unusual sentence constructions, making it surprisingly difficult for the modern-day reader to parse. Perhaps this was more accessible to its target audience at the time, though given that other books from the period remain much more readable today, it’s also possible the writing always felt awkward.
Awkward or not, the full text of the book is now available for free online reading (or download in a variety of common eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.
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