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eBook available: Our Young Aeroplane Scouts In France and Belgium

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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Available for proofreading: Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet

Two American Boys with the Dardenelles Battle FleetLess than two weeks ago, we released the eBook of the World War I juvenile novel, Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, by Major Sherman Crockett; now we are ready to begin work on one of that story’s sequels, Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet.

If you would like to help create a new electronic edition of this more-than-a-century-old story, you can join the Distributed Proofreaders project, where volunteers contribute small amounts of work to produce large numbers of eBooks. To learn more about how the process works, see our earlier blog post, Proofreading the Digital Library. Once you are ready to help, the adventure await you at the book’s project page.


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eBook available: Two American Boys with the Allied Armies

Cover imageOur latest Distributed Proofreaders project to become a Project Gutenberg eBook is another World War I juvenile, Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, by “Major Sherman Crockett.” This book is the first in a series, in which two American youths visit the European war zone in search of a missing relative.

Published in 1915, before the United States entered into the conflict, the tone of the book is quite different from war novels of the following years, in which anti-German sentiment was much more explicit. Here, the main characters are careful to maintain neutrality, expressing admiration for bravery on both sides of the conflict, and rendering aid to the injured without prejudice. The portrayal of war is sometimes more nuanced than usual for this type of book as well, making some effort to separate the actions of individuals from those of nations.

However, just because the portrayal of conflict is in some ways more subtle than in other similar books, nothing else about the volume offers much subtlety. The titular boys, a pair of cousins, are drawn with little shading: Jack is always right and does everything perfectly, and Amos simply follow’s Jack’s lead, fawning along the way. Back story tends to be filled in through expositionary dialogue, with absolutely no regard for naturalism. The book also expresses quite strong feelings for the value of unquestioning patriotism.

Along with other series books of this vintage, this title fills in more of the picture of how an active conflict was used to sell books to children in the early 20th century, and what messages publishers thought were appropriate to present in this context.

The entire book is available to read online or download in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: The Mystery of Suicide Place

The Mystery of Suicide Place (cover)Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project to be published at Project Gutenberg is another Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller melodrama: The Mystery of Suicide Place, first serialized in the Fireside Companion between July 27, 1895 to October 12, 1895 under the longer title of “Fly-Away Floy, the Saucy Little Darling; or, the Mystery of Suicide Place.”

Like most of Mrs. Miller’s novels, the core of the story is a romance, in this case between a cheerful, independently-minded orphan named Floy and a wealthy young man named St. George Beresford. Also like most of Mrs. Miller’s novels, the romance is complicated by a number of factors, in this case including class differences, murderously jealous rivals, and Suicide Place, Floy’s childhood home, where a resident is driven to suicide once every decade. This last element, which provides a significant undertone of supernatural horror to the novel, makes this one of its author’s best works for reading during the Halloween season!

The entire book can be freely read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: The Red Cross Girls on the French Firing Line

The second Red Cross Girls adventure (following The Red Cross Girls in the British Trenches) is now available on Project Gutenberg. In The Red Cross Girls on the French Firing Line, the girls’ adventures in France continue, with the narrative giving much of its attention to Eugenia, the eldest of the group, who was more of a background character in the previous volume. As in the previous volume, the book develops the characters while offering occasional action sequences, at the same time setting some seeds that may lead to future romantic plot threads. Some of the prose is a bit awkward, perhaps suggesting that the book was written in greater haste than the previous volume, but this is another interesting specimen of war-time juvenile fiction.

As always, the entire book may be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: The Red Cross Girls in the British Trenches

The latest title from our collection to become a Project Gutenberg eBook is The Red Cross Girls in the British Trenches, the first title in a series of juvenile adventures about four American girls who come from substantially different backgrounds but work together to provide relief to the wounded during the first World War.

While many war series were published at this time with a male audience in mind, this is one of the rarer titles marketed to young girls. The narrative is significantly more character-driven than the “boys’ books” of the time, but it still delivers a few action set pieces. It also touches on issues including gender roles, mental illness and the impact of the Civil War, providing an example of how these topics were portrayed to a mainstream juvenile audience at the start of the twentieth century (which, of course, may seem insensitive by twenty-first century standards).

The full text of the book may be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats through Project Gutenberg.


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Available for proofreading: Our Young Aeroplane Scouts in France and Belgium

Our latest book to appear as part of the Distributed Proofreaders project is Our Young Aeroplane Scouts in France and Belgium. Like the recent Red Cross Girls titles, this is part of a wave of juvenile adventure novels released in reaction to the first World War, and it has been out of print for more than a century.

You can volunteer to help turn the images from our Digital Library into a new, free electronic edition of the text at Project Gutenberg. To join in, first read this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then head to the project page to begin work.


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Available for proofreading: Two American Boys with the Allied Armies

Cover imageFollowing the completion of the Dreadnought Boys series, our next Distributed Proofreaders project is the first entry in another early 20th-century juvenile military series. Two American Boys with the Allied Armies was published in 1915, before America’s entry into World War I, and it follows the adventures of the titular boys during that conflict. The series would go on for a total of five novels, concluding in 1918 along with the conflict it described.

To help create a new, free digital edition of this more-than-a-century-old book, you can read this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then join the work on the project page.


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eBook available: The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise

The latest book from our collection to be converted into a Project Gutenberg text through the Distributed Proofreaders project is The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise, the fifth volume of a series of naval adventures. With the release of this title, all six Dreadnought Boys books are available as free eBooks.

In this particular adventure, perhaps the most episodic of the series, Ned and Herc, the titular Navy boys, find their ship taking an extended cruise with stops in Hawaii, Japan and Egypt, among other places. With each stop, like clockwork, the boys get themselves into danger and then find their way out again — often with remarkable cultural insensitivity.

Needless to say, like the rest of the series, this book does not offer much enjoyment for the contemporary reader, but it shows one way in which the United States’ role in the world was being portrayed to young readers more than a century ago, as the first World War was just about to begin.

The full book can be read online or downloaded in commonly-used eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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Available for proofreading: The Red Cross Girls on the French Firing Line

Following last month’s unveiling of The Red Cross Girls in the British Trenches, we have released its sequel into the rounds of the Distributed Proofreaders project. The Red Cross Girls on the French Firing Line is the second entry in the WWI-era juvenile series.

To help create a new free electronic edition of this century-old book on Project Gutenberg, you can read this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then join in the work at the project page.


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Last Modified: July 15, 2019