A Secret Diary of the First World War

Fact-tastic Stories from Scotland's History

Gill Arbuthnott; Illustrated by Darren Gate


Quick Look

  • Inspired by the true story of a Scottish teenager who went to fight on the Western Front
  • A mélange of fascinating facts and gripping fiction, interspersed with diagrams, illustratrions, timelines and letters
  • Marking the centenary (1918-2018)
  • The first book in the Young Kelpies Fact-tastic Stories series of historical fiction

Step into the boots of real-life boy soldier James Marchbank and experience the most important, incredible, weird, poignant, and revolting bits of the First World War. Mixes fascinating facts and an engaging story with brililant illustrations.

Floris Books
Young Kelpies
40 b/w illustrations
Age Range:
From 7 to 10 years
144 pages
Publication date:
26 Jul 2018
Fact-tastic Stories from Scotland's History


What was the First World War really like? Step into the boots of 14-year-old soldier James Marchbank and find out.

Inspired by the real-life diary of a Scottish boy soldier, each easy-to-read chapter mixes James's story with timelines, letters, diagrams and illustrations to create a fact-tastic account of the First World War, which is both fun and emotionally engaging for younger readers.

Why was rat hunting a popular hobby in the trenches?
How did parachuting pigeons help win the war?
Why would a really good friend would rub whale oil on your feet?
What did it feek like to be a teenager at war?

Take a journey through time and discover all the most important and incredible bits of the First World War.

A Secret Diary of the First World War is the first in a new brilliant series, which blends together intriguing facts and fascinating fiction to bring the most exciting, gruesome and crucial moments of Scottish history alive for young readers.


'A Secret Diary of the First World War is inspired by an actual account of a teenager who fought on the Western Front. Gill Arbuthnott has used his story to make the Great War more accessible to younger readers... He kept a diary and Gill has used it as the basis for her book which also includes blocks of explanation to help modern readers. The book is illustrated by Darren Gate in a very engaging style. I'm very glad to have this book and I'll certainly add it to my collection... this is a book that deserves to be read.'
-- Jane Sandell, Young People's Librarian at Moray Council


Gill Arbuthnott is the author of numerous fiction, non-fiction and picture books for children and young adults and has been nominated for a number of major UK book awards. A former biology teacher, Gill has written many non-fiction books to engage children with science. Her books include Chaos Clock, Winterbringers, The Giant Panda Party and What Makes You You? Gill lives in Edinburgh with her family and Leonard the cat.

Darren Gate is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Glasgow. He won the Kelpies Design and Illustration Prize in 2016.

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