Tag Archives: Great War

Though Poppies Grow

Book Cover of The War to End All Wars by Russell Freedman

Every year on Remembrance Day, we remember the sacrifices made in World War I. I’ve written about it several times before with children’s picture books: The Eleventh Hour by Jacques Goldstein (reviewed here), Why? by Nikolai Popov and Terrible Things by Eve Bunting (reviewed here), and Once a Shepherd by Glenda Millard & Phil Lesnie (reviewed here), all titles I still recommend for all ages for Remembrance Day and beyond. But truth be told, I’m not much of a history buff: I didn’t pay that much attention in grade 10 Canadian history, and it kind of only came to me this year that I don’t actually know/remember what the causes of WWI were (yikes, I know). I remembered that there were several underlying causes that made the conditions ripe for the explosion of war with one event (though what that event was, I had also forgotten), but the details were lost to me. So if you, like me, weren’t paying attention in Canadian history class back in high school, let’s revisit the causes that led up to the Great War together as we remember those who lost their lives to the war.

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The Eleventh Hour

Book Cover of The Eleventh Hour by Jacques GoldstynJacques Goldstyn, author of Letters to a Prisoner and Bertolt, takes us through a story based on real events (Jim is based on George Lawrence Price, a Nova-Scotian soldier who died in WWI at 10:58am, hours after the armistice was signed but just minutes before it was announced and ended the war). In The Eleventh Hour, Jules and Jim were born within minutes of each other – Jules 2 minutes after Jim – and they grew up inseparable, with Jules always 2 minutes after Jim. As the war begins and the two boys join the army, Goldstyn doesn’t shy away from portraying some of the dark grisly circumstances that come with the warfront, from mice and lice to a fiery red explosion complete with those caught in its wake. On November 11, Jim once more goes ahead of Jules, up and over the trench – only to be shot down – with Jules, following 2 minutes behind Jim, surviving the war. One of the things that really stuck with me after reading this title was how Goldstyn highlights the absurdity of the situation: he shows the signing of the armistice, which happened hours before 11 o’clock, forcing the reader to be confronted with the meaninglessness of Jim’s death. But where this message truly shines, I think, is that in making the reader question the meaning of Jim’s death, it also brings up the question of the meaning of war.

Book Cover of Why? by Nikolai PopovHere are a couple more recommendations for picture books, to introduce the topic and bring up discussion, for all ages: Why? by Nikolai Popov, which I’ve written about before, and Once a Shepherd by Glenda Millard & Phil Lesnie (also previously reviewed).

Once a Shepherd

Glenda Millard, illustrated by Phil Lesnie

Once there sang a carefree shepherd

in a field of emerald green.

He lullabied his cloud-white lambs

and gentlied off their fleece.

Once Tom’s world was all at peace.

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