11 Canadian books for children and young adults to read to commemorate Remembrance Day
Nov. 11 is Remembrance Day. Here are 11 books that explore the experience of war and its impact on human life for children and younger readers.
Winnie's Great War tells the true story of Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie was a black bear purchased by Canadian veterinarian Captain Harry Colebourn, who brought her to Europe during the First World War. Colebourn donated her to the London Zoo, where she became the favourite of a boy named Christopher Robin and his father, the children's writer A.A. Milne. The book is narrated by a descendent of Colebourn, who is telling the story to Colebourn's great-great-grandson.
Winnie's Great War was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
Winnie's Great War is for ages 3 to 6.
The picture book Mustafa looks at love, empathy and understanding though the eyes of a child refugee from a war-torn country. Mustafa's new country is very far away from his old home. Sometimes he wakes up forgetting where he is, but then his mother shows him the moon — the same moon from their old country. In the park, Mustafa watches kids play, but he always feels like he's an outsider looking in. One day, "girl-with-a-cat" invites him to join in the fun.
Mustafa is for ages 4 to 8.
War historian Linda Granfield composes the stories of three generations of soldiers in this children's book: a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan; his grandfather, a veteran of the Second World War; and his great-grandfather, who fought in the trenches of the First World War.
The Road to Afghanistan is for ages 7 and up.
Jacques Goldstyn, also known as the Montreal Gazette cartoonist Boris, has written and illustrated The Eleventh Hour, a picture book about two friends who enlisted as soldiers in the First World War. Jim has always been stronger and faster than Jules, who is always two minutes behind his friend. On Nov. 11, 1918, Jim is first over the trench and shot at 10:58 a.m., two minutes before Armistice.
The Eleventh Hour is for ages 7 to 10.
Too Young to Escape is based on co-author Van Ho's childhood in Vietnam. As the Vietnam War ends and a communist regime begins in Ho Chi Minh City, Ho wakes up to find that her mother, sister Loan and brother Tuan have escaped in the middle of the night without her. At four years old, Van is too young — and her grandmother is too old — to make the dangerous boat journey west. Once the family is settled, they plan to send for Van and grandmother. Until then, Ho is treated like a servant by her aunt and uncle and is bullied by a classmate, who turns out to be the son of a military policeman.
Too Young to Escape is for ages 8 to 12.
A Grain of Rice is a semi-autobiographical novel by Alberta physician and writer Nhung Tran-Davies. It follows a 13-year-old girl's escape from war-torn Vietnam. The protagonist finds hope and courage as she struggles through oppression and poverty. A Grain of Rice is a dramatic look at the aftermath of war and the many risks people will take for a better life.
A Grain of Rice is for ages 9 to 12.
A Boy Is Not a Bird is a middle-grade novel set during the Second World War. In 1941 Europe, tensions are high. Even though Natt knows that there's a war going on, he's frustrated that his family treats him like a child. But when the Russians move into his small town of Zastavna and local authorities start to round up deportees bound for Siberia, Natt witnesses and experiences harsh events that force him to grow up faster than he'd like.
A Boy Is Not a Bird is for readers aged 9 to 12.
At the age of five, while celebrating a goal in an after-school game of soccer, Michel Chikwanine was kidnapped by rebel fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He managed to escape, but not before he was subjected to some traumatic experiences. He recounts his story in the comic book Child Soldier, which he co-wrote with Jessica Dee Humphreys and features illustrations by Claudia Davila.
Child Soldier is for ages 10 to 14.
What the Eagle Sees looks at historical events to reflect an underrepresented Indigenous perspective of our collective past and how to move on in the present and future. Academic Eldon Yellowhorn worked with Kathy Lowinger to examine the lasting impact of settler culture on the Indigenous community.
The book explores the impact of war throughout the centuries, including stories of what Indigenous people did when invaders arrived on their homelands and the involvement of Indigenous people as code talkers during the Second World War. What the Eagle Sees is a follow-up to 2017's Turtle Island.
What the Eagle Sees is for ages 11 and up.
Homes is a memoir of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah's childhood in Iraq and Syria. Just before civil war broke out, the al Rabeeah family left Iraq for safety in Homs, Syria. Al Rabeeah was 10 years old when the violence began in his new home. He remembers attacks on his mosque and school, car bombings and firebombs.
Homes was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction and was a contender on Canada Reads 2018, when it was defended by Chuck Comeau.
Homes is for ages 12 and up.
- Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, teenage refugee from Syria, tells his story with help from his teacher Winnie Yeung
Jordana Lebowitz is a 19-year-old college student and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. In To Look a Nazi in the Eye, written by Kathy Kacer, Lebowitz reflects on what it was like to attend the 2015 trial of Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz." Groening was accused of being complicit in the deaths of more than 300,000 Jews in Auschwitz and Lebowitz followed the court testimonies closely.
To Look a Nazi in the Eye is for ages 15 and up.