CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 28 . . . . March 23, 2012
The Adventures of a Trapper Boy is the story of Harold (Gus) Edwards who went from being a trapper boy in a coal mine in Glace Bay, NS, to becoming the head of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The book is exciting and informative and ideal for recreational reading.
Gus’s father was the underground manager of a coal mine in England but lost his job in 1903 when Gus was 10. Unable to find work in England because many mines were closing, Gus’s father moved the family to Nova Scotia where Gus became a trapper boy. (Trapper boys opened the doors between sections of a mine so that ponies pulling carts of coal could reach the surface and then go back down for another load.) When the First World War began, Gus went back to England as an Aviator Cadet in the Royal Air Service. (When Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was automatically at war. An estimated 60,000 Canadians died in the war.) After only 53 minutes with a flying instructor, Gus was expected to fly. His experiences during the war read like an adventure story and prove again the old cliché that truth is stranger than fiction. He flew with a fighter squadron which was expected to provide protection to bombers as they flew over Germany. On one flight, Gus’s plane was shot down. His gunner was killed, but Gus managed to survive only to be captured. Thrown into jail, he managed to escape three times but was always recaptured.
After the war, Gus flew with the Royal Air Force in Russia when Britain was supporting the White Russians in their struggle with the Communists. When that ended in 1920, he returned to Canada. He stayed in the RCAF and rose to become an air marshal. By 1943, when he retired, he was in charge of the 50,000 RCAF personnel who were on bases outside of Canada.
The Adventures of a Trapper Boy is well illustrated throughout with paintings and mainly black and white photographs. The paintings by Gary Frederick are excellent and help to make the story come alive. The book has 12 chapters which vary in length from two to four pages. Most chapters have an Activity. This takes the form of challenging questions that require a small amount of research. Another feature, Did You Know?, provides little bits of useful information. One example dealing with typhus states that “typhus is a bacterial disease spread by lice and fleas. It is cause by poor hygiene and occurs in cold climates.”
In addition to the above, the book includes a partial list of Aviation Museums in Canada. It is suggested that readers contact one of these to learn about what it has to offer visitors. There are no addresses or web sites for these museums so, unless a reader has access to a computer, s/he is not likely to find out what services any of the museums have.
Suzanne K. Edwards, the author of The Adventures of a Trapper Boy, is the daughter of Gus Edwards. After graduation from university in the 1960s she started her own company managing conferences and later became a successful wood sculptress. Before writing this book for young readers, Edwards wrote Gus, From Trapper Boy to Air Marshal for older readers. Her love for her father and enthusiasm for his career help to make this book a winner.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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