High School Perspective: Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book on Battlefield Preservation in 4 Months
By Charlotte Yeung
Special to the Douhboy Foundation web site
In May 2020, I was 1 of 15 youth chosen to be a representative of the American Battlefield Trust, America’s largest battlefield preservation organization. As I attended workshops and meetings in the Trust, it became clear that I knew very little about this topic.
Battlefield preservation is often justified by saying it’s good for history. Preserving battlefields also means preserving delicate ecosystems, ensuring better local quality of life by ensuring open space, and honoring the soldiers, nurses, and others who died. Soldiers, historians, and history buffs walk the land to better understand what happened there. Children and students can visit the parks as an opportunity to learn outside of the normally restrictive classroom.
Battlefields also serve as economic engines that draw visitors for historical fairs, educational purposes, and other events.
The Process of Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book
I felt that these reasons weren’t communicated to me adequately. So I decided to make a project that would highlight these reasons to preserve battlefields. I would take this a step further and target a demographic that is often left out of the historical preservation discussion: children. I wanted to create a children’s book that I would have wanted to read as a kid, one that promoted environmental/historical preservation and youth activism.
What I Learned About WWI and America
While researching historical preservation, I came across the history of sanctification in terms of WWI. That war is unique in the global scope of the conflict, the military tactics, carnage, and the swathe of Americans involved. Women worked as nurses, the Harlem Hellfighters and 370th Infantry Regiment (known as the “Black Devils” by the Germans) made waves, and Choctaw and Cherokee code-talkers participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the fall of 1918.
After the 1918 Armistice, communities ranging from states to colleges marked the conflict in a diverse collection of memorials.
Memorials ranged in all shapes and sizes. Doughboy sculptures were specifically for WWI soldiers (Doughboy was a term used for American WWI soldiers; supposedly because of the piping on their uniforms). Honor rolls listed the names of those who fought. Other memorial types include neo-classical works such as arches, murals, and gates. Bridges, librairies, and other practical structures were dedicated to people who aided in the fight.
The United States World War One Centennial Commission was formed to commemorate the Americans involved in WWI and to educate the American public. It also constructed the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC, honoring all Americans who served during the conflict. The Commission employs creative tactics such as bell tolling and podcasting.
Similarly, the American Battlefield Trust focuses primarily on preserving battlefields of the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 through acquisition of battlefield land. Their creative tactics include having a Youth Leadership Team to create projects that range from battlefield visits to artistic experimentation.
I learned that America cares a lot about honoring and remembering wars. It’s also in the relatively unique position of having the space to preserve many battlefields and erecting memorials for conflicts. Congress frequently ensures that historical projects are funded. America cares about their cultural heritage site, something that I haven’t seen everywhere.
Why People Should Care About WWI
I believe that many people like to think that they won’t make the same mistakes that people in the past made. This is a terrible assumption. We can draw many parallels between the past and present. Preserving history means we preserve the stories of folly and triumph, stories that we can learn from. WWI is an example of a war being a catalyst for innovation, the expansion in minority rights due to labor shortage (though this is often a rocky road), and as an incentive for a more efficiently-run state.
During WWI, medical and transportation technology rapidly improved. The first blood bank was set up on the Western Front in 1917 and for the time first submarines played an important role in war at sea. Women filled the labor gap. Though they mostly left their jobs after the war, it paved the way to the 19th Amendment and the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their gender.
Finishing My Children’s Book
I ended up writing and illustrating my book from February 2021 to May 2021. It was difficult as I had no experience writing for children or illustrating things digitally. I ended up speaking with experts and holding myself accountable to many people. Through daily practice, I ended up creating a children’s book. Isabelle and the Magic Bird was a #1 New Release in 2 Amazon categories and was a #8 bestseller. At the time of this writing, it’s currently #1 in Children’s Exploration History.
I love learning about all the crazy and fascinating stories from history. It’s important to not only preserve these stories and the places and objects related to them but to also involve the younger generations. If we don’t foster an interest in history and historical preservation, the work that has been done can unravel and be forgotten. I hope that this children’s book can foster an interest in these topics for younger children, and it seems that there are others who have the same interest.
But I can’t do this alone. There needs to be more people making the effort to get the younger generations involved. And I think that young people are interested in this; they just need the opportunity to express this interest.
Charlotte Yeung is an incoming Industrial Design major at Purdue University. She is the author of two books: Isabelle and the Magic Bird and Verge (under the pseudonym, C.M. Yeung). Isabelle and the Magic Bird is a #1 New Release in two categories and a #8 bestseller on Amazon.