The first review of my brand-new book From Vimy to Victory is in, and it's a good one. Megan Moore Burns in Quill & Quire, the journal of the Canadian book trade, writes in a starred review: "Veteran author Hugh Brewster has perfected the art of engaging young readers with history. In his latest...Brewster vividly describes our country's significant contribution to the last hundred days of the First World War." She concludes her review by saying: "From Vimy to Victory is accessible and engrossing, a wonderful combination." Thank you, Megan and Quill & Quire!
This summer I’ll be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I with a concert performance on July 19th at the Elora Festival. Canada, Fall In! The Great War Remembered in Words, Images and Song will tell the story of Canadians in WW1 through their letters and diaries as narrated by me and actors Christopher Newton and Brigitte Robinson, complemented by a screen show of remastered footage and archival images. The Elora Festival Singers under the baton of Noel Edison will bring to life the music of the period, from forgotten Canadian songs like ‘Canada, Fall In’ and ‘Boys from Canada’ to familiar favorites like ‘Tipperary’ and ‘Roses of Picardy’ to haunting choral anthems by Healey Willan and Benjamin Britten. I know this will be an unforgettable experience for any Canadian.
As 2010 draws to a closed it’s exciting to see that my first novelPrisoner of Dieppe has made it’s way onto a number of ‘best of the year’ lists. The Canadian book trade journal Quill & Quire chose it along with Paul Yee’s Blood and Iron, the other title that launched Scholastic’s I Am Canada series, in a list of only five books. And theGlobe and Mail‘s reviewer Susan Perren put both books on her ‘Ten Best” List for 2010.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/susan-perrens-top-10-childrens-books-of-2010/article1848068/
In addition, book panelist Ken Setterington chose it as one of his favourites on Shelagh Rodger’s CBC radio show, The Next Chapter.
But perhaps the best endorsement of all came from a 10-year-old boy at a school in Creemore who told me it was “the best book I ever read.” The teacher/librarian at his school then went to Curiosity House, the local bookstore and bought him his own copy.
Dieppe: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II has been nominated for the 2010-11 Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award. On Juno Beach won this award in 2005 and both At Vimy Ridge and Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose have been Honour Books so I’m very honoured to be on the nomination list once again for this prestigious award.
I also knew that kids were fascinated by the stories about prisoner of war camp and how the men dug tunnels and made amazing escapes.
So I submitted an outline and sample chapter for a book to be calledPrisoner of Dieppe. Scholastic approved this and I spent most of ’09 working on it. And I found I really enjoyed doing it. I used a lot of dialogue for which which I think I have a knack. Having done a lot of Dieppe research for the non-fiction book I thought I would have a headstart. But I soon found I needed to do a whole lot more. Invaluable help in this was provided by my Dieppe veterans, particularly Ron Reynolds of Port Hope. I would call Ron several times a week with questions about tiny details (what kind of uniform did Lord Mountbatten wear?, did you have toilet paper in POW camp?) etc. Even at 90 Ron’s memory was crystal clear – and he never exaggerated or embroidered any of the details, he always told it like it was.
I had decided to dedicate the book to Ron but sadly, I had to change the dedication to ‘In memory of Ron Reynolds’ since he died on April 18th. I gave a eulogy at his funeral on the 22nd and read a few excerpts from the book that incorporated Ron’s experiences. Some men were broken or embittered by their POW experiences but Ron retained his kindness, sweetness and irrepressible high spirits through all his 91 years.
Photograph: with Ron Reynolds at a Port Hope Book talk.
DIEPPE: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II has been nominated as one the the non-fiction selections for the Silver Birch Award 09/10. It’s always exciting to be selected for one of the provincial ‘Tree’ Awards and Ontario’s Forest of Reading is the biggest award program of all. Sponsored by the Ontario Library Association, the Forest of Reading is an amazing reading motivator where kids vote for their favorite books. Being nominated means that the schools and libraries buy your book and frequently invite authors in to give talks. It’s capped off with a big awards ceremony in May where hundreds of kids attend to cheer for their favorite books.
Just when I was beginning to despair about publishing a book in August, DIEPPE: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II receives its first revew and it’s a rave! Toronto Globe & Mail children’s book reviewer, Susan Perren, wrote of DIEPPE on August 1st, 2009:
“[DIEPPE] can be described quite simply as superb. It is superb in the way it sets out the context for the raid on Dieppe…Superb, too, in the way Brewster, using archival photographs, first-person accounts from surviving combatants or memoirs, and the connective tissue of his beautifully crafted text to tell a story that is equal parts horror and valour.”
One couldn’t ask for a better review! Thank you Susan Perren! Don’t ever believe that in the age of blogs and Amazon reader reviews that real, thoughtful reviews in real newspapers don’t matter.