Dianne Wolfer’s In the Lamplight offers a fresh look at WWI

Dianne Wolfer’s book In the Lamplight – set during World War I – brings female roles and friendships to the fore in the context of this time in history.

The events of World War I and their effects have been well documented in relation to boys and men, but rarely are female roles and relationships explored in any depth, and in a format accessible to children and young adults.

In the Lamplight not only offers a realistic depiction of life during this period but also opens up discussions about women and their place in society. This topic couldn’t be more pertinent today, as the conversation around gender roles and diversity grows ever stronger. The book offers the chance to teach about the war in full acknowledgement of girls’ and women’s vital contribution.

Told from the perspective of Rose, an English girl whose village is transformed by the events of World War I, In the Lamplight follows Rose’s story as she travels from England to become a nurse in an Australian hospital, where she tends to sick and wounded soldiers. Rose is an independent, dynamic and proactive character, providing the perfect viewpoint through which to explore women’s experiences in the war. The story also touches on the suffragette movement and the changing place of women during this time.

It’s not all about guns and trenches; set between 1914 and 1919, the story also explores what happened after the war, including the breakout of the Spanish Influenza pandemic (whose casualties worldwide exceeded those of the war), the Soldier Settlement Scheme and life in postwar Australia. This is another important teaching point, as it opens up discussion about key events beyond the war years.

‘The story unfolds from Rose’s perspective,’ says Dianne. ‘Through her diary accounts, readers experience zeppelin raids, food shortages and nursing. Rose sees the after-effects of war, things like shell-shock, amputation, trauma blindness and trench foot, and develops skills that enable her to help the Australians when she arrives there.’

In the Lamplight ties in with Dianne’s two previous historical picture books, Light Horse Boy and Lighthouse Girl, both of which were recently adapted for the stage by Black Swan State Theatre Company.

Teaching notes, bookmarks and a World War I Activity Kit are available for this book.

Dianne Wolfer will be launching In the Lamplight at Albany Town Hall on Monday 9 April.

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