12 Canadian books to read to commemorate Remembrance Day

Nov. 11 is Remembrance Day and will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. Here are 12 books that explore the experience of war and its impact on human life.

On Nov. 11, 2018, Canadians will honour Remembrance Day and mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Here are 12 Canadian works of nonfiction, fiction and children's literature that describe the experience of war and its impact on human life.

The Secret History of Soldiers by Tim Cook

The Secret History of Soldiers is a nonfiction book by military historian Tim Cook. (Marie-Louise Deruaz)

Military historian Tim Cook chronicles the daily life of soldiers of the Great War in The Secret History of SoldiersIn gathering stories from over 500 combatants, Cook describes the songs, trench art and friendships that helped soldiers endure warfare day after day.

They Fought in Colour

They Fought in Colour is published by Dundurn. (Dundurn)

Edited by The Vimy Foundation and translated by Daniel Poliquin, They Fought in Colour is a collection of archival photos of Canadian soldiers and nurses during the First World War. These photos have been rendered in colour for the first time and are accompanied by essays from Canadian luminaries like Margaret Atwood, Peter Mansbridge, Paul Gross, Charlotte Gray and Tim Cook. 

Dam Busters by Ted Barris

Dam Busters is a nonfiction book by Ted Barris. (HarperCollins/Submitted by Ted Barris)

Journalist Ted Barris tells the story of a legendary mission known as Operation Chastise. In May of 1943, 133 Allied airmen flew to Nazi Germany to take out the Ruhr River dams, the reservoirs of which powered the country's powerful military complex. 

The Emperor's Orphans by Sally Ito

The Emperor's Orphans is a book by Sally Ito. (Marlis Funk, Turnstone Press)

When approximately 4,000 Japanese-Canadians were "repatriated" to Japan during the Second World War, many of Sally Ito's relatives left their lives in Canada. Ito, who grew up in Edmonton, tells her family's story of displacement and their experiences in the dark days of the Pacific War.

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

Homes is a memoir by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung. (Samuel Sir, Freehand Books, Heiko Ryll)

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. Now a high school student in Edmonton, al Rabeeah shares his story with writer Winnie Yeung in hopes it will bring greater understanding of what's happening in Syria. Homes was recently a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

A Family of Brothers by J. Brent Wilson

A Family of Brothers is a book of historical nonfiction about the 26th New Brunswick Battalion in the First World War by J. Brent Wilson. (Goose Lane Editions)

J. Brent Wilson tells the story of the "Fighting 26th," a group of over 5,700 soldiers from New Brunswick who fought in the First World War. Participating in battles such as Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, the 26th Battalion lost 900 men, while nearly 3,000 were injured in combat.

Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page

Kathy Page's latest book is the novel Dear Evelyn. (Biblioasis, Billie Woods)

Dear Evelyn is a historical novel about a man named Harry Miles, who grows up in England between the wars and is profoundly shaped by his poetry teacher, a war veteran. Years later, Harry falls in love and marries a young woman named Evelyn before shipping out to serve Britain in the Second World War. He survives and returns home, but the decades that follow prove trying for his marriage.

Vi by Kim Thúy​, translated by Sheila Fischman

Kim Thúy is a Vietnamese-born Canadian author. (Penguin Random House/Benoit Levac)

Named after its narrator, Kim Thúy's novel Vi is the story of a young, prosperous family's escape from the Vietnam War to a new life in Quebec. Vi, the youngest of four children, paints loving portraits of those closest to her — her mother, her brothers, a family friend named Ha — and quietly grows into her own as an independent young woman.

The Eleventh Hour by Jacques Goldstyn, translated by Anne Louise Mahoney

Jacques Goldstyn, also known as Boris, is the author of the picture book The Eleventh Hour. (Owlkids Books, Bayard Canada Livres)

Jacques Goldstyn, also known as the Montreal Gazette cartoonist Boris, has written and illustrated a picture book about two friends who enlist 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 November 11, 1918, Jim is first over the trench and shot at 10:58 a.m., two minutes before Armistice.

A Grain of Rice by Nhung Tran-Davies

Nhung Tran-Davies is the author of A Grain of Rice. (

 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.

Too Young to Escape by Van Ho & Marsha Forchuk-Skrypuch

Too Young to Escape was written by Van Ho & Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. (Submitted by Pajama Press)

As the Vietnam War ends and a communist regime begins in Ho Chi Minh City, Van Ho wakes up to find that her mother, sister Loan and brother Tuan have escaped in the middle of the night without her. At just 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, but until then Van 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. This nonfiction book is based on co-author Van Ho's childhood.

Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick & Josh Greenhut, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut are co-authors of the book Winnie's Great War. (HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group)

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, children's writer A.A. Milne. This book is narrated by a descendent of Colebourn, who is telling the story to Colebourn's great-great-grandson. The book was recently a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.


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    Nov 14, 2018 4:31 PM ET


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