CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002
How do you explain the impact of warfare to young readers today? Images of modern combat come mainly from TV newscasts at suppertime. As I overheard someone ask when conflict in the Persian Gulf broke out, "What channel is the war on?" Multi-award winning author Linda Granfield offers a collection of stark images, memories and thoughts that add up to a compelling presentation in Where Poppies Grow, a companion to her previous books, In Flanders Fields and High Flight. The spare writing style is both informative and entertaining. This WW1 scrapbook is accessible enough for curious young, independent readers; as well, it is perfect for sharing with a grandparent whose personal stories will surface as they page through the book. Reading it will be a discovery process as you follow those who experienced the war and examine your own emotions as you are invited to "gaze upon the faces ... and consider who they were." The real story is told in the photos and their detailed captions.
Using a double-page spread for each topic, Where Poppies Grow leads the reader from a brief explanation of the war's causes, through descriptions of how Canadian soldiers prepared, their arrival at the front, to the different venues of the war. It looks at the heroes and those who endured infrequent, censored communication as they "kept the home fires burning," at the miraculous stories that grew into legends and even the role of animals in combat. Particularly poignant are two accounts, one of a soldier who was lost, and another who returned wounded and spent much of his life in ill health.
Granfield's meticulous research brings accounts such as those to a personal level. The book is liberally illustrated with actual photos and copies of letters home from the war, then traces one family up to the present: "Cora (Lyle) was a widow at 25...she worked at a fruit market...passed away in 1961. The Winnipeg theatre that Les Lyle decorated with murals still stands." Perhaps the most telling comment describes a photo of Allies and enemies in a trench at Christmas, 1914: "When they dared to look across the battle-scarred landscape, the British saw the gleam of tiny lights, as the Germans lit candles on small Christmas trees in their trenches...the soldiers of both sides called a truce. They shared wine, cigars, chocolate and sausages...for days...Sadly, with the truce over, the men returned to their trenches and the war continued..." If this doesn't spark discussion, nothing will.
The cover will attract you; what's inside will make you linger. This book is a must read for everyone.
Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction, living in BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.