Tag Archives: WWI

Winnie the Pooh’s Canadian Connection

19 Feb

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Harry Colebourn was a Canadian veterinarian from Winnipeg, though he was born in England. When WWI broke out, like many, he was sent to England first. On the train across Canada, he saw a baby bear in a train Station in White River, Ontario, on the north-eastern side of Lake Superior. He bought the bear for $20, named him after his hometown, and took him on the troop train. Once in London, Harry realized he couldn’t really keep the bear, so he donated it to the London Zoo, where, a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne, loved to come and visit. The rest, is history.

This book is a beautifully written and the illustrations by Jonathon D. Voss are gorgeous,  softly bleeding into the white space surrounding it.

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The endpapers have old, captioned photos of Winnie, Coleburn and Christopher Robin Milne. The Author’s Note at the end gives more specific details on the lives of Harry Colebourn and Winnie and provides sources for further investigation. All around an excellent book.

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”.

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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.

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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.

Vimy

10 Aug

The highlight of my trip to Ottawa was visiting the Canadian War Museum. It  presents Canada’s military past and how it shaped the country.The exhibits explain Canada’s rich military history from earliest times to the present, featuring the experiences of people on the battlefields and at home.

It was extremely well done and made me cry more than once.

The weekend I was there marked the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, so being there was especially poignant. I was especially touched by the display of the Vimy War Memorial.

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If you don’t know much about the Vimy War Memorial, I recommend reading The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart, who happens to be one of my favorite Canadian authors for adults.

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The book was originally published in 2001, but really captures the passion and heartbreak of war and the power of art to transform.

From the publisher: Set in the first half of the twentieth century, but reaching back to Bavaria in the late nineteenth century, The Stone Carvers weaves together the story of ordinary lives marked by obsession and transformed by art. At the centre of a large cast of characters is Klara Becker, the granddaughter of a master carver, a seamstress haunted by a love affair cut short by the First World War, and by the frequent disappearances of her brother Tilman, afflicted since childhood with wanderlust. From Ontario, they are swept into a colossal venture in Europe years later, as Toronto sculptor Walter Allward’s ambitious plans begin to take shape for a war memorial at Vimy, France. Spanning three decades, and moving from a German-settled village in Ontario to Europe after the Great War, The Stone Carvers follows the paths of immigrants, labourers, and dreamers. Vivid, dark, redemptive, this is novel of great beauty and power.

If you’ve never read anything by Jane Urquhart, I highly recommend that you do. She is a beautiful writer.

WWI @100

25 Jun

On Saturday we mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the trigger that set off the maneuvering that became the First World War. Or the Great War, as they called it. They didn’t know then that they were supposed to number them. The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful collection of legacies of WWI that you can see here. It is well worth looking at.

When I go to Canada later this summer, we will visit Ottawa and I am very excited to see the Canadian War Museum. I haven’t been to Ottawa since our grade 10 trip in 1980, and there are a number of museum that have been built in the decades since my last visit there.

There are a number of WWI related books out now, and no doubt, some more to come over the next four years. I hope to tell you about many of them. Today’s book is the story of a war dog.

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Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog is written by Anne Bausum and is published by National Geographic.

From the Publisher: Stubby, the stump-tailed terrier, worked behind enemy lines, and gained military honors along the way. Private Robert Conroy casually adopted the orphan pup while attending basic training on the campus of Yale University in 1917. The Connecticut volunteer never imagined that his stray dog would become a war hero. He just liked the little guy. When Conroy’s unit shipped out for France, he smuggled his new friend aboard. By the time Stubby encountered Conroy’s commanding officer, the dog had perfected his right-paw salute. Charmed, the CO awarded Stubby mascot status and sent him along with Conroy’s unit to the Western Front. Stubby’s brave deeds earned him a place in history and in the Smithsonian Institution where his stuffed body can still be seen. Almost 100 years later, Stubby’s great deeds and brave heart make him an animal hero to fall in love with and treasure all over again.

The book is well researched and full of photos and quotes. Backmatter includes an afterword, timeline, research notes, bibliography, resource guide, citations, and index. It would be an excellent means of introducing kids to the details of WWI, which many of them know very little about.

Lest We Forget

11 Nov

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In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae
I memorized this poem years ago, not on purpose, but through hearing it sung for years at Remembrance Day services in the community room above the arena in New Hamburg. We all wore poppies.  Tied in my memory with the song is the sound of the lone trumpeter playing The Last Post. I get teary eyed just thinking about it. I remember old man, standing straight, hands at their sides. Some had tears in their eyes, too.
This day was chosen because it was the day the armistice ending the First World War was signed. So I have a couple of lists today: my favorite Canadian novels of WWI and kid books about WWI.
My Favorite Canadian novels of WWI 
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
Three Day Road  by Joseph Boyden
Deafening by Frances Itani
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
The Wars  by Timothy Findley
 Children’s Books about WWI (fiction & non-fiction)
Truce  by Jim Murphy
War Horse  by Michael Morpurgo
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence
Knit Your Bit by Deborah Hopkinson
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Crossing Stones by Helen Frost
Soldier Dog by Sam Angus
And the Soldiers Sang  by J. Patrick Lewis
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