Remembrance Day books


Librarians Recommend Kids’ Books for Remembrance Day

Nov 3, 2017

Remembrance Day is an important event for Canadians. It’s a time to both reflect on the past and also consider the present and future. It can also be an excellent day to have thoughtful discussions with your kids, not only about the sacrifices made by others, but also about the general nature of conflict and peace. These might be talks touching on history that is global or personal, especially if you have relatives who served in the military or lived in areas affected by war.

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Of course, conversations about peace and humanity can be pretty daunting. Books can sometimes help, though. Whether fiction or historical, a good picture book, early-reader novel, or comic can offer new perspectives and discussion points for difficult topics. They can help kids better understand complex subjects and offer parents a springboard for deeper conversations. With November 11 approaching, we asked a few librarian experts from across the country to recommend some poignant or provocative reads for families. (We tried to include some age-appropriateness suggestions, but every child is going to be different in terms of sensitivity and understanding. You may want to check out these titles before passing them along to young readers.)

What is Peace? (By Wallace Edwards)

Recommended by Erin Morice, youth collection development librarian, Halifax Public Libraries

Book cover: Two Generals (Scott Chantler)

Beautiful, whimsical artwork is combined with reflective questions about peace: Is peace strong? Is peace gentle? Is it innocent? Is it wise? This engaging picture book provides a perfect foundation to discuss peace with children, exploring what it means to them, what it looks like in their everyday life, and what it means to those around the world. Recommended for Preschool.

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace (By Anna Grossnickle Hines)

Recommended by Tess Prendergast, children’s librarian, Vancouver Public Library

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace (Anna Grossnickle Hines)

This collection of short but powerful poems (for kids five years old and up) explores various notions of peace, ranging from resolving sibling squabbles to ending global wars. The exquisitely beautiful quilted illustrations add an emotionally stirring aspect to this book. Parents should read this collection all the way through before sharing with their children — it might be a good idea to pick and choose appropriate poems and then talk about ways to build and maintain peace together. It might even be inspiration for your own ‘quilts,’ offering an opportunity to have children illustrate their own poems or use fabric scraps to create collages.

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion (By Jane Barclay, Illustrated by Renné Benoit)

Recommended by Erin Morice, youth collection development librarian, Halifax Public Libraries

Book cover: Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion (Jane Barclay and Renné Benoit)

A beautiful picture book about a grandfather sharing what it was like to serve in the war and the importance of Remembrance Day, this tender story is accompanied by brilliant artwork that enriches the story with its animal imagery and childlike wonder. While reading this story, I was flooded with memories of attending the annual Remembrance Day celebrations as a young child, soaking in the somber energy of those around me as we silently remembered those who fought in war, while the trumpet hauntingly played The Last Post. Children learning about war and Remembrance Day will finish this book with a better understanding of both. Recommended for Kindergarden.

Sidewalk Flowers (By JonArno Lawson, Illustrated by Sydney Smith)

Recommended by Ann Foster, branch supervisor, Saskatoon Public Library

Book cover: Sidewalk Flowers (JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith)

This Governor General’s Award-winning picture book shares the story of a child who gathers flowers while on a walk with her parent. Accessible without language or cultural barriers, the misleadingly simple story is told entirely without text. The lessons shown here, of the importance of paying attention and paying tribute to what’s around you, are a great starting point for conversation with young children about Remembrance Day. Recommended for Kindergarden.

A Poppy is to Remember (By Heather Patterson, Illustrated by Ron Lightburn)

Recommended by Erin Morice, youth collection development librarian, Halifax Public Libraries

Book cover: A Poppy is to Remember (Heather Patterson and Ron Lightburn)

Remembrance Day can be an overwhelming topic to explain to young children — which information do you focus on and how do you start? This book provides a gentle introduction, focusing on the symbolism of poppies and why we wear them every year. At the back of the book, there is more information about the poppy and Remembrance Day, making it a rich book for older children as well. As a child who was fascinated with Remembrance Day and spent hours leafing through my father’s books about war, I wish this picture book had been available when I was growing up — it provides the history in a format accessible to young children. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.

If You Plant a Seed (By Kadir Nelson)

Recommended by Tess Prendergast, children’s librarian, Vancouver Public Library

If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Nelson)

In this beautiful, allegorical story — perfect for kids aged two and up — a rabbit and a mouse plant seeds in their garden. When birds expect to share in the bounty, a messy battle ensues. Once the mouse understands there is enough for everyone, the two sides come together in the spirit of co-operation and sharing. This story presents a powerful metaphor for young children to understand the roots of conflict, as well as the paths to peace. This picture book works on multiple levels: Very young children will simply enjoy the story of how two groups of animals fought and then reconciled, while older children can be involved in discussions about what it takes to find peace and equity.

A Bear in War (By Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat, Illustrated by Brian Deines)

Recommended by Anthea Bailie, collections strategist, Markham Public Library

Book cover: Bear In War (Stephanie Innes, Harry Endrulat, and Brian Deines)

Suitable for Grade 2 and up, this picture book tells the story of Teddy — a bear now on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Teddy belonged to a young girl from Quebec named Aileen. Her father enlisted during the First World War and Teddy was sent to him as part of a care package. Teddy and Aileen’s father experience some of the First World War together before the battle of Passchendaele. After being found on the father’s body, Teddy is returned to his family in Quebec. There is also a sequel, Bear on the Homefront, in which Aileen becomes a nurse in the Second World War. Both stories are fairly gentle, and many children will understand the gesture of giving a teddy bear to someone to help them when they’re scared or lonely.

Highway of Heroes (By Kathy Stinson)

Recommended by Anthea Bailie, collections strategist, Markham Public Library

Highway of Heroes (Kathy Stinson)

The first half of this nonfiction picture book imagines the hearse ride of a young boy along the highway of heroes after his father is killed in Afghanistan. The second half of the book describes the history and purpose of the Highway of Heroes and some of the conflicts involving Canadians over the last few decades. This very gentle and heart-felt introduction to more recent wars is an excellent book with which to start a conversation about how we remember the sacrifices many people have made for their country. Recommended for Grade 2 and up.

Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I (By Mark Greenwood, Illustrated by Frané Lessac)

Recommended by Tess Prendergast, children’s librarian, Vancouver Public Library

 Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I (Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac)

This heartbreaking story, for kids five and up, is accompanied by beautiful, painted illustrations that lend a gentle poignancy to a tragic war story. A mare named Midnight is raised by a young Australian man a few years before World War I begins. They are both sent to Europe, separated, and then reunited for what would be one of the last cavalry charges in military history. Told with honesty and simplicity, this story may help children place the significance of this war into a context they understand. (While showing war has violent and tragic consequences is part of teaching the importance of peace, some readers may be quite upset at the death of the horse — parents will need to consider whether their children are ready for this book.)

Charlie Wilcox (By Sharon E. McKay)

Recommended by John Mutford, public services librarian, Yellowknife Public Library

Book cover: Charlie Wilcox (Sharon E. McKay)

This excellent novel captures the youthful energy and naiveté of soldiers in World War I, partially in Newfoundland, and partially in France. It is a coming-of-age story and the titular character is changed irrevocably by the horrors of war. Where McKay succeeds is in Charlie’s rich character development in the first half of the novel, making his alteration all the more meaningful. Recommended for Grades 4 to 6.

Dust of Eden (By Mariko Nagai)

Recommended by Ann Foster, branch supervisor, Saskatoon Public Library

Dust of Eden (Mariko Nagai)

Suggested for Grade 5 and older, this book puts the reader right in the shoes of 13-year-old Mina, who is sent with her Japanese-American family from Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. Written in verse, this book allows you to see these experiences through Mina’s eyes. This work is heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and illuminating on an often-ignored aspect of the Second World War.

Making Bombs for Hitler (By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch)

Recommended by Anthea Bailie, collections strategist, Markham Public Library

Making Bombs for Hitler (Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch)

Recommended for kids in Grade 6 and up, this award-winning book tells the story of a young Ukrainian girl who is captured by the Nazis and forced to work as a slave labourer during the war. Although written for children, it details some of the atrocities committed during the Second World War. It is a story of survival and friendship, as well as a story about the horrors of war that deals with very difficult subject matter extremely well. For those who want further reading, Stolen Child is the story of what happened to the protagonist’s sister during the war and Underground Soldier details what happens to one of her friends.

Poppies From Iraq (By Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim)

Recommended by Ann Foster, branch supervisor, Saskatoon Public Library

Poppies From Iraq (Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim)

This is a non-fiction graphic novel about the author’s coming of age in Iraq during a time of great political upheaval. Drawn by her husband, a famous French cartoonist, the relatable format is similar to other popular graphic novels geared to Grades 7 and 8, like Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Sisters. This book is a great way to remind us all people are people — no matter where they live. It may help readers gain an understanding of the effects of the war in the Middle East on those who live there.

Two Generals (By Scott Chantler)

Recommended by John Mutford, public services librarian, Yellowknife Public Library

Book cover: Two Generals (Scott Chantler)

This graphic novel retelling of the author’s grandfather’s World War Two experience captures the youthful energy and naiveté of the soldiers before their first battle, essentially champing at the bit to fight — before following it up with the shocking reality of war. This could serve as an important reminder to readers who want the ‘thrill’ of war-based video games. The art is largely monochromatic in camouflage greens but with occasional use of red, capturing the historic story and scenery. Younger readers might be taken aback by scenes of dismembered limbs, but they are nonetheless necessary to stress the severity (and some of the edge is taken off by the somewhat ‘cartoony’ style). Recommended for Grade 7 and up.

Why Do We Fight: Conflict, War, and Peace (By Niki Walker)

Recommended by Tess Prendergast, children’s librarian, Vancouver Public Library

Book cover: Why Do We Fight: Conflict, War, and Peace (Niki Walker)

Aimed at kids ages 10 and up, this short book tackles the roots of human conflict and describes some of the ways peace can be built and maintained. The author speaks directly and honestly to elementary-school readers, offering them a solid framework by which they can make sense of conflicts, particularly active global ones. By reading this concise and well-researched content about the roots of human conflict, kids can begin to understand the headlines they see and hear. They can learn every conflict has specific roots, often going back centuries, and that routes to peace can be paved when people prioritize it over warfare. Parents should read this book with their children, tackling one chapter at a time. You can talk about wars and other conflicts you remember, especially those that have since resolved. What do you remember about how peace came about? Was peace easy to maintain or have there been further conflicts in that particular area? Take your child’s lead: If they are interested in hearing more about a past conflict and the peace process that followed it, help them conduct some research about it. The public library has books and databases to help you learn more about any current or historical human conflict.

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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