Which is a lengthy way of saying that Chicago Review Press has met my requirements with this book on an obscure topic, packed with information and activities (yes, you may not consider WWI obscure, but trust me, the kids do).
The bulk of the book is an overview of the war, beginning with an explanation of the treaties and events leading up to the war, the various fronts and what life was like in the trenches, a detailed overview of modern weapons developed and used in the war, naval and aerial combat, and the role of animals in the war. This is followed by a chapter dealing with the late entry into the war of the US, life on the home fronts, and the end of the war and its aftermath.
Suggested activities range from making a parachute or periscope (the instructions are wordy, but fairly easy to follow) to more academic assignments like creating a "scoreboard" of all the countries involved in the war or creating your own propaganda posters or slogans. Personally, I find most of the activities ranging from the mildly pointless to the monumentally boring and slightly weird. Kind of like making a scale-model of a concentration camp (yes, that's an actual project - I lent them my hot glue gun). However, teachers and homeschooling parents may find them useful if they're looking for extension activities. Additional information includes a detailed list of key personalities in the war, and annotated bibliographies of websites and films about the war. Notes, a glossary, bibliography, and index are also included.
This is an overview of the war, not an encyclopedic treatment, so while it briefly mentions the role of women, treatment of African-Americans and native populations in colonized countries, and movements such as women's suffrage and anti-war groups, it doesn't deal with these at length.
Verdict: This isn't a book the average middle grade reader is going to sit down with and read cover to cover, unless they're deeply interested in history and/or World War I. Although it's well-written and the author does an excellent job of explaining the complex events of the war, it's still pretty dense and text-heavy and the black and white photos and grayscale maps aren't very inviting. It is very well-organized however, and would make an excellent resource for students who need additional information on various aspects of the war, which is exactly what I need. It also makes good browsing reading - try booktalking the chapters on how weaponry changed or the involvement of animals in the war. If you have a need for similar overviews of the war, especially connecting the various events and covering, at least briefly, all aspects of the war, this is an excellent source and addition to your World War I resources.
ISBN: 9781613745564; Published April 2014 by Chicago Review Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library