Canada's History


- by Bill Vigars, with Ian Harvey Sutherland House, 259 pages, $26.95

A War Guest in Canada

by W.A.B. Douglas Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 271 pages, $24.99

After the crushing defeat of France in June 1940, Nazi Germany’s armed forces were poised to invade the island kingdom of Britain. In that summer of fear, some three thousand British children were temporaril­y evacuated to Canada, where they were known as “war guests.” The eleven-year-old W.A.B. Douglas — then known simply as Alec — was one of them, and his letters back to his mother are the focus of this fine book.

“Mother did not really know if she would ever see me again, and she was in tears as she waved goodbye,” Douglas writes. “I was too excited to be sad, and too callow!” His mother had every right to be worried. One ship of children, the

ill-fated SS City of Benares, was sunk in September 1940 with seventy-seven young people killed.

The cheerful and resilient Douglas made it across the Atlantic and was taken into a loving home near Toronto. He acclimatiz­ed well to Canada, although he was a keen observer of the difference­s between Canadian and British schooling, games, and culture. Still, like most kids at the time, he was excited about the annual Santa Claus parade and took part in wartime fundraisin­g activities.

W.A.B. Douglas returned to Canada after the war and has had successful careers both in the Royal Canadian Navy and as a Second World War historian, mentoring a generation of Canadians and writing a number of key books. Douglas not only wrote history, he lived it — and he continues to contribute to our understand­ing of the war years through his delightful letters. — Tim Cook

Terry & Me: The Inside Story of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope

Terry Fox is one of the most well-known and celebrated Canadians‚ with more than $ 800 million raised in his name to support cancer research. His legacy is so large and unquestion­able that it can be easy to forget how it all began.

In Terry & Me, a new book by Bill Vigars, readers are transporte­d back to 1980, when Fox was in remission from his cancer and embarked on his nowiconic run. His ambitious goal: to run across Canada while raising $24 million, a dollar for every Canadian then alive. But when Fox chose to begin his run in St. John’s, N.L., in April, he didn’t realize that the timing coincided with the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual daffodil campaign — its biggest fundraisin­g initiative that consumed substantia­l time and resources.

Vigars worked for the cancer society and was eventually sent to meet

with Fox in New Brunswick to see if he was “the real deal.” By that time Fox had already been running for nearly two months and had yet to attract much attention to his cause. Vigars immediatel­y knew that he was witnessing something special and started making plans to build public support for the runner — beginning with Fox’s triumphant arrival in Ottawa on Canada Day.

Through personal memories, letters, and diaries, as well as recent conversati­ons with others who shared in Fox’s journey, Vigars takes readers through the logistical challenges and emotional highs and lows of the now-famous Marathon of Hope. He also provides a firsthand look into Fox’s spirit — quiet, resilient, determined, and unwavering in his commitment to raise awareness and money for cancer research.

From the sidelines, Vigars watched as Fox captured the hearts of those who were lucky enough to cross his path, whether it was a young cancer patient, a law-enforcemen­t officer, or a stranger along the route. Terry & Me is a deeply personal and insightful account of Fox’s Marathon of Hope from one of his closest friends and confidante­s. — Joanna Dawson

Tales from the Homestead: A History of Prairie Pioneers, 1867–1914

This fascinatin­g book from author and professor Sandra Rollings- Magnusson shares a collection of personal stories told by immigrants and migrants who came to Canada’s Prairie provinces to start a new life.

The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 allowed men to apply for 160 acres of land for only a ten-dollar registrati­on fee, as long as certain conditions were met within three years. The dream of owning their own land drove many to leave their homelands for what they hoped would be a better future. Through memoirs and journals, we


hear first- person accounts of what these immigrants experience­d while travelling to Canada and of the hardships they endured once they arrived.

Included in the book are archival photos that beautifull­y illustrate the stories of settlers who arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chapters that cover topics ranging from horse thieves to cyclones, travel disasters, and daily living provide a glimpse into the joys, trials, and obstacles that were encountere­d.

As Rollings-Magnusson states in her preface, these stories “allow us to step into the homesteade­rs’ shoes and experience life in a different era.” Their voices highlight this unique period in Canada’s past and the diverse people who made the land their new home. — Danielle Chartier

East Side Story: Growing Up at the PNE

Nick Marino started working at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in the summer of 1980, when he was twelve, and he finished in 1986, the year he calls a dividing line for the city because of Expo 86.

A teacher and comedian whose family has lived in Vancouver for more than a century, Marino has an ear for a good story, an eye for a fairground character, and a storytelli­ng style that’s frequently funny and not infrequent­ly touching. Whether you have fond memories of the PNE (or of similar fairs elsewhere in Canada), or if you’ve never set foot in a major fair, East Side Story is a great read that goes well beyond the Gayway — as the PNE midway was improbably known.

Marino writes achingly about his mother’s death and its aftermath, while telling evocativel­y of his teenage misdeeds and romances. The book is clear-eyed and blessedly non-nostalgic

in its attitude toward relics like beauty pageants and freak shows, as well as the destructio­n of the nearby Black community of Hogan’s Alley.

And Marino devotes a full chapter to the fact that the PNE continued merrily in 1942, even as Canadians of Japanese descent were incarcerat­ed — a word he prefers to “interned” — in horse stalls next door at Hastings Park. He scathingly notes that the fair has repeatedly declined to erect a plaque explaining the ugly history.

Black- and- white photos of the author as a teenager, as well as many images of the people and places he highlights, make an already lively book even more vivid. — Nancy Payne

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