In April, we started a Distributed Proofreaders project for Jed’s Boy, a juvenile novel of World War I written by Civil War veteran Warren Lee Goss. Because it is a sequel of sorts to the author’s earlier Civil War novel Jed, that makes it a “series book” of sorts, though it is somewhat different in style and tone than many of the more formulaic Great War stories that were specifically written to be packaged into series like the Brighton Boys or Two American Boys.
The novel is written in the first person, which gives it the flavor of a memoir and allows a bit more time to be spent on the protagonist’s interior life than a contemporary third-person narrative would have. Time passes and characters develop at a faster pace than in a typical juvenile series, since there is no apparent desire on the author’s part to stretch the narrative out to multiple books. Of course, some familiar elements from the series books are also on display here: a patriotic tone, a lot more violence than the typical children’s book, and a generally unquestioning portrayal of war.
Given that it was published shortly after the war ended, when readers might not have cared to be reminded of the recent conflict, it is perhaps unsurprising that this book has been mostly forgotten. Nonetheless, for anyone studying juvenile fiction about the war, it fills an interesting space in the landscape: an attempt by a veteran of 19th century warfare to portray the new horrors of the 20th century — gas, lice, machine guns and all — to a young audience.
The entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.