Books

13 Canadian books to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of historic invasion that signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

June 6, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the historic invasion that signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War. To mark this day, here are 13 Canadian books that explore the Second World War.

War Bears by Margaret Atwood & Ken Steacy

War Bears is a graphic novel by Ken Steacy and Margaret Atwood. (Ken Steacy, Dark Horse, Liam Sharp)

This graphic novel takes place in Toronto, where a young cartoonist named Alain is haunted by the fact that he cannot join his older brothers in the fight abroad. Instead, Alain creates a Nazi-fighting heroine named Oursonette to bolster support and boost morale at home. His success is ensured by a little-known policy called the War Exchange Conservation Act, which prohibited American comics from coming to Canada. This act led to a brief wartime boom in Canadian-produced comics that died out soon after the war's end.

Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Ted Barris

Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944 is a nonfiction book by Ted Barris. (Dundurn)

Ted Barris' bestselling nonfiction book goes through the D-Day invasion from the Canadian perspective. Nearly 15,000 Canadian soldiers, by sky, sea and on the ground, participated in this momentous battle. Barris chronicles "Canada's longest day" beat-by-beat, introducing readers to the soldiers who risked and lost their lives on Juno Beach.

Two Generals by Scott Chantler

Two Generals is a graphic novel by Scott Chantler. (McClelland & Stewart, Scott Chantler)

Scott Chantler's graphic biography of his grandfather's experiences in the Second World War takes readers through military training and the Juno Beach invasion through the eyes of two young soldiers. Two Generals focuses on the friendship between Law Chantler and Jack Chrysler, as they face mortal peril on a day-to-day basis. Chantler relied on diary entries and letters from his grandfather, Chrysler and the Highland Light Infantry of Canada to create this book.

Fight to the Finish by Tim Cook

Fight to the Finish is a nonfiction book by Tim Cook. (Marie-Louise Deruaz, Penguin Canada)

Tim Cook offers a detailed account of the Canadian contribution to D-Day. Supplemented with black-and-white photographs and diary entries and letters, Cook delves into the minutiae of military strategy while providing a minute-by-minute account of warfare from the soldiers on the ground, in the sea and in the air.

By Chance Alone by Max Eisen

Max Eisen is the author of By Chance Alone. (HarperCollins, CBC)

When Max Eisen was 15 years old, he and his family were taken from their home to Auschwitz, where Eisen worked as a slave labourer. He survived the Holocaust and emigrated to Canada in 1949. Eisen has toured the world, educating people about the horrors he survived during the Second World War. He has recorded his memories in the deeply moving memoir By Chance Alone. The book won Canada Reads 2019, it was defended by Ziya Tong.

Dispatches from the Front by David Halton

Dispatches from the Front is a biography of CBC war broadcaster Matthew Halton by his son David Halton. (Penguin Random House)

David Halton tells the story of his father, Matthew Halton, who served as senior war correspondent for the CBC during the Second World War. Reporting from the front lines of Italy and Northwest Europe, Halton was known as "the voice of Canada at war." The book was a finalist for the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize.

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.

​The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan

The Water Beetles is Michael Kaan's first book. (Leif Norman, Goose Lane Editions)

Inspired by the diaries of Michael Kaan's father, The Water Beetles takes place in Hong Kong during the Second World War. It follows a young boy named Chung-Man, forced to leave his parents and hide in the countryside when Japan invades Hong Kong. Kaan's novel won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award was shortlisted for the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

The Ghost Keeper by Natalie Morrill

The Ghost Keeper is a novel by Natalie Morrill. (HarperCollins Canada, @natalie_morrill/Twitter)

Natalie Morrill's debut novel tells the story of Josef Tobak, a Jewish man in Vienna whose life falls apart as the Second World War descends. One of his closest friends joins the Nazi Party, but helps Josef flee to America. Upon returning home after the war, Josef learns about his former friend's wartime secrets. The book won the 2018 Canadian Jewish Award for fiction.

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.

The Scout by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

The Scout is a comic by David A. Robertson. (Highwater Press)

This comic book by David A. Robertson, with illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, tells the true story of Sgt. Tommy Prince, one of the most decorated Indigenous soldiers from Canada. An expert marksman and tracker, Prince served in the Second World War and Korean War. He received the Silver Star from the American army and the Military Medal from King George VI at Buckingham Palace after the Second World War.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

Mark Sakamoto is a Canada Reads winner and the author of Forgiveness. (Peter Power/CBC, Harper Perennial)

In this memoir, Mark Sakamoto explores how he came to forgive his mother, who suffered from alcoholism, by looking to his grandparents' examples of forgiveness and perseverance. During the Second World War, his paternal grandmother Mitsue Sakamoto was interned by the Canadian government, while his maternal grandfather Ralph MacLean was a prisoner of war in Japan. Both overcame these traumatic pasts to raise loving families in Canada. The book won Canada Reads 2018, it was defended by Jeanne Beker.

Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory by Mark Zuehlke

Juno Beach is a nonfiction book by Mark Zuehlke. (Douglas & McIntyre, zuehlke.ca)

Mark Zuehlke is one of Canada's foremost popular war historians and has written a trilogy of books on D-Day. In Juno BeachZuehlke relies on personal diaries and military records to describe the events of June 6, 1944, as thousands of soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy in a crucial battle. Zuehlke focuses on the stories of Canadian troops, the least experienced in battle, and describes how they held onto Juno Beach.

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