On this day in 1901, Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim was published. The novel is an adventure story set in 19th century India, a time of British colonial rule. The adventure in the book, however, pales when compared to the adventure surrounding what happened when a soldier in the French Foreign Legion acquired a French edition of the novel.
The soldier’s name was Maurice Hamonneau, and his decision to take Kipling’s book into combat during World War I saved his life. Shot in battle near Verdun, Hamonneu lay unconscious for hours. When he regained consciousness, he realized that the book which he was carrying in his breast pocket had shielded him from the bullet. Piercing the book, the bullet left a hole that stopped 330 pages into the book, leaving only 20 intact pages between the bullet and Hamonneu’s heart.
In gratitude, Hamonneu sent the bullet-pierced book to Kipling along with the medal he had been awarded in the battle. Kipling was moved by the gesture, but later when he learned that Hamonneu had become a father, he returned the book and the medal with a note to Hamonneu’s son, advising him to always carry a book of at least 350 pages in his breast pocket.
Today the book and Hamonneu’s medal are preserved in the rare book section of the United States Library of Congress (1).
Today’s Challenge: Books Not Bullets
What one book is so good that it’s worth taking into battle — a book that everyone should read as if his or her life depended on it? What makes the book so special, so inspirational? Explain your choice, and assume you are writing to an audience who has not read the book. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1-History.com. The Book That Saved a Life.