Tag Archives: Harlem Hellfighters

Some more on WWI

23 Oct

I am still reading  The War That Ended Peace,  but that is not the only book related to World War I I’ve read recently. Two newish picture books feature different aspects of “the war to end all wars”.


Harlem Hellfighters tells the story of black Americans from New York who picked up brass instruments—under the leadership of famed bandleader and lieutenant James Reese Europe—to take the musical sound of Harlem into the heart of war. J. Patrick Lewis’ poems are generally short snapshots and are complimented by Gary Kelley’s sepia toned illustrations. Some background knowledge of the war would be helpful, though not necessary. Includes an introduction, bibliography and artist’s notes.


Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914, by John Hendrix, is a fictionalized account of the eponymous event. I do so love using the word eponymous. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday.This is a compassionate book with lovely illustrations. Includes an author’s note, glossary, bibliography and index.

Memorable reads for Memorial Day

25 May

Growing up in Canada, we didn’t celebrate Memorial Day. Right around this weekend, though we had Victoria Day, celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honor of Queen Victoria’s’s birthday. She reigned so long, the holiday stuck! Like Memorial Day, Victoria Day marks the beginning if the summer season. 

Since I’m in the US and Victoria day was last weekend, I thought it appropriate to write a bit about some books that would be appropriate for Memorial Day.


The Harlem Hellfighters,  a graphic novel by Max Brooks, illustrated by Caanan White tells the story of a little know piece of World War 1 history.

Goodreads summary: In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on—and off—the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.  


The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights is the latest YA non-fiction book from Steve Sheinkin. It, too focuses on a little known aspect of US military history.

Goodreads Summary: On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

Both of these are relatively short, engaging reads that added a lot to my knowledge of both World Wars. You might be busy barbecuing today, in honor of the day. But I hope you take the time to get your hands on these two books.


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