CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004
No, she would not cry. As soon as she'd wakened up this morning, she'd vowed to act happy all day. She wasn't going to go galumphing around during the last two days before her father set out on his own new adventure. Imagine what she'd feel like if her father got wounded or drowned or some other gruesome thing, and she hadn't even tried to be nice during his last days at home. So she returned to the house with a stiff smile fixed onto her face.
Izzie Publicover is an 11-year-old girl caught up in the swirl of World War II. Her life is about to be changed by events across the Atlantic Ocean, and she is both afraid and excited. This addition to the "Our Canadian Girl" series places Izzie at the scene of a dangerous event that threatened the lives of everyone in the Halifax area in 1942.
In Izzie: Book One, The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, Izzie discovers three marooned sailors (one of them German) on the shores of Granite Cove, a fishing village in Nova Scotia. In Book Two, Izzie's father has finally been accepted into the navy, an event which means that her mother Bess, Izzie and brother Joey will have to move to Dartmouth. Bess takes a job on the assembly line at a sugar refinery, the family rents rooms in the house of a divorced woman, and Izzie has to make new friends in a class of 50 students.
The changes are unsettling for Izzie. She is distraught about leaving everything she loves in Granite Cove, from her best friend Jasper to her beloved cow, Clementine. She worries about her father's boat being hit by a German torpedo out on the ocean. And she feels guilty for enjoying her new home, complete with running water, flush toilets and electric lights. She makes friends with two girls, one of which is a guest child from an upper class family in Britain.
Budge Wilson uses Izzie's transition to the city to inform readers about how people lived in rural maritime communities in the 1940's. Life was both simpler and more complicated because of the work it took just to get simple things done, from pumping gas to traveling to Halifax. There were certainly fewer options for employment, and the war propelled women such as Bess into the workforce. Izzie's observations about daily activities and attitudes are interesting and educational.
The climax comes when the Halifax harbour lights up with explosions in the middle of the night. Wilson puts Izzie in sight of the Trongate incident. The Trongate was a munitions ship that caught fire in the harbour and which threatened to do as much damage as had been done by the Mont Blanc in 1917. Izzie's landlady rescues the family as well as Patricia, the guest child who until that moment had maintained a fa‡ade of complete upper crust detachment, refusing any display of emotions.
This book can be used in the classroom as part of a study on World War II and as a segue to the Halifax Explosion. While it will appeal mostly to girls, many boys will also be interested in the Trongate incident and the information about the war.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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