Pro­tag­o­nist is fe­male in Canuck war novel

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By He­len Nor­rie

TRoad to Afghanistan (NorthWinds, 32 pages, $20 hard­cover) by pro­lific Toronto au­thor Linda Gran­field is a sen­si­tive trib­ute to the Cana­dian troops who have served in this war. Told from the viewpoint of a fe­male sol­dier whose fam­ily has a long his­tory of mil­i­tary ser­vice, this hon­est youn­gadult novel re­counts tragedy, sac­ri­fice and fear, as well as courage and pride. The book is il­lus­trated by Toronto artist Brian Deines’ large and strik­ing paint­ings, done in a muted, un­fo­cused style, which suits the sub­ject mat­ter. Aimed at ages seven and up, this book might well be used to ex­plain the Afghanistan con­flict to the youngest read­ers. Peter­bor­ough, Ont., au­thor Julie John­ston re­ceived the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Literary Award for her first two books, Hero of Lesser Causes and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Her lat­est young-adult novel, Lit­tle Red Lies (Tun­dra Books, 352 pages, $22 hard­cover) is also mem­o­rable. It is 1946, and 13-year-old Rachel can hardly wait for her brother, Jamie, to re­turn from the war. She has plans for all the things they did to­gether be­fore he left. But when he ar­rives back home, she finds Jamie changed. He is older, qui­eter and less fun-lov­ing. Her par­ents seem wor­ried and dis­tracted. When Jamie is di­ag­nosed with a se­ri­ous ill­ness, it’s just one more thing Rachel has to deal with. Mean­while, she has a se­ri­ous crush on one of her teach­ers and be­lieves he re­turns her feel­ings. Should she run away from her prob­lems? John­ston writes pow­er­fully about the emo­tions and chal­lenges of her young read­ers. Writ­ten for ages 12 and up, Lit­tle Red Lies is another im­pres­sive book by a su­pe­rior Cana­dian au­thor. For­mer Van­cou­ver (now Port­land, Ore.) writer David Ward has also tack­led the theme of Canada at war, but this time his pe­riod is the First World War and the main char­ac­ter is a pi­lot who par­tic­i­pates in fa­mous dog­fights over enemy ter­ri­tory. Fire in the Sky (Scholas­tic Canada, 216 pages, $15, hard cover) is a good read for ages 10 and older. Com­ing from a farm near Winnipeg (Ward makes the mis­take of call­ing it a “Winnipeg farm,” rather than a Manitoba farm), Paul Townend is fas­ci­nated by the new ”fly­ing ma­chines” and joins up in 1916 as soon as he turns 19. Ward cap­tures the en­thu­si­asm and ex­cite­ment of fly­ing that Paul (or Stich as he’s nick­named) feels. His de­light is tem­pered by his anger and grief over the loss of friends and fel­low pi­lots as they take part in fre­quent mis­sions in un­fa­mil­iar planes. He even has a mem­o­rable en­counter with the Red Baron, as they en­gage in dra­matic aerial com­bat. An added bonus of this small book, part of the I Am Canada se­ries, is Ward’s ob­vi­ous fa­mil­iar­ity with the air­craft of the era. Photographs of the planes are in­cluded in an ap­pen­dix. While Ward — whose pre­vi­ous books have been hockey themed — does not ig­nore the ter­ri­ble toll the war takes on both the fight­ing men and their fam­i­lies, he man­ages to keep the out­look hope­ful. Paul forms a re­la­tion­ship with young woman when his plane crash-lands in a farmer’s field, and his let­ters and sketches home to his young sis­ter, Sarah, re­mind us of bet­ter times ahead. He­len Nor­rie is a for­mer teacher-li­brar­ian who has taught chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture

at the Univer­sity of Manitoba. Her col­umn ap­pears on the third weekend of

the month.

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