Today, August 4, 2014, Great Britain commemorates 100 years since the country entered World War I.

Maud Hart was in London when Germany declared war on France on August 3, 1914 as German troops invaded neutral Belgium­—the event that drew Britain into the war on August 4th.

Maud wrote many letters home during her European trip from January 31st to September 5, 1914 and her mother saved all of them. “I wrote that book [Betsy and the Great World] from my letters home, of which mother had saved every one,” Maud wrote in 1973.

In reading Betsy and the Great World you feel what it was like to be in London when WWI was declared. Even though the Betsy-Tacy books are fictional, we know they are based on historical fact. Maud was consistent in her detail to these facts throughout all the Betsy-Tacy books. This is what makes her stories fascinating to me.

The United States remained neutral in the beginning, but formally joined the war in 1917. By the time of the armistice of November 11, 1918, empires had crumbled and the world map was redrawn.

So today, remember this time in history by reading Betsy and the Great World.

Excerpts from Betsy and the Great World:

But when they got into the streets they saw the big news posters crying out that armies all over Europe were mobilizing. And London was suddenly full of soldiers.

…The newspapers next day, and the next, said that a state of war existed between Germany and Russia. Americans were rushing off the continent like leaves before a storm. They were pouring into London by the thousands, telling of the cold war purpose in Berlin and the fever of excitement in Paris. Crowds there were singing and marching in the streets.

…Oh, I’m lucky to be here!” Betsy cried as each new edition brought more tales. Americans were traveling day and night to get to England. They weren’t allowed to leave the railroad stations, even to eat. They were locked into the cars. They couldn’t get money. Many who arrived in London had left all their luggage behind and had only the clothes on their backs.

…Betsy kept remembering the marching soldiers she had seen everywhere in Germany and all the talk of war.

…On the morning of August fourth the conviction that war would be declared before nightfall was as strong around Mrs. Heaton’s breakfast table as it was in the Times.

…Shortly it became clear that England would get in. Six German columns crossed the Belgian frontier. The Belgians were waiting for them at the Meuse.

…The Crew went out to roam the streets with the rest of London. Soldiers everywhere—alone, with sweethearts, with wives hanging to their arms, carrying their children.

…Newsboys were running up and down crying… “War declared! War declared!”  Betsy did the only thing she could do at such a moment. She got down on her knees.