Extreme Battlefields by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Drew Shannon (Annick Press, 2016) details how ten very unique battles throughout history were shaped by the weather and terrain in which they were fought. in which weather was a deciding factor in the victory or non-victory of the warring parties. From Hannibal in the Alps to a U.S. Navy ship during World War II stuck in a typhoon, the weather makes a difference in the outcome of these battles.
Weather and terrain hugely impacted the history of war. I’d always heard the story about Hannibal attacking Rome by traveling through the Alps with elephants. It turns out that the elephants were just a tiny part of a very difficult journey. By the time the Alps had been conquered, Hannibal’s troops were so weakened that they could not continue. Hannibal had to abandon his ultimate goals. I also learned about the treacherous underground tunnels in Vietnam, the glacier between India and Pakistan that contributes to border disputes, and the Passchendaele mud that slowed the Canadian forces during World War II.
I had heard some of the stories, such as the British troops trying to defeat the maroons in Jamaica and Napoleon’s march into Russia. After all, “never start a land war in Asia” is a common saying, isn’t it? Learning about the terrain only enhanced those stories and gave them further context.
In the end, Extreme Battlefields reinforced for me the concept that war is hell! I struggle to understand why people were so determined to continue fighting in such dire circumstances. I do see how the typhoon for the Navy may not have provided an off-ramp from fighting, but most of the others seemed less necessary. Maybe I still need more context for the battles!
Extreme Battlefields would be a great pick for kids fascinated by war games or by the shaping of history based on the geography of our world. As an adult that loves learning about history, I enjoyed the snapshots of various battles in time.