Thursday 11 February 2016

Where poppies grow by Linda Granfield

Where poppies grow: a World War I companion by Linda Granfield (Stoddart, 2001)

48 pages with numerous illustrations

Subjects: World War One, Canada, Flanders, animals, non fiction (Years 5-8)

This is a non-fiction book giving an overview of World War One. There are other similar books, but this one tells the story from a Canadian perspective. Many of the images, letters and photos were new to me because they are sourced from Canadian records and archives. Some of them, such as the postcards, seem to come from the author’s own collection (according to the picture credits).

In many ways, the Canadian experience was similar (with the exception of the Gallipoli campaign) to that of the Anzacs:  training camps at home, sailing across to Europe, more training in England, then across the Channel to Flanders and the trenches.

Some of the images that particularly caught my attention show “Canadian recruits undergoing training at Salisbury” (stabbing with bayonets at hanging bales of straw; hardly the same as the real thing), fresh bread being baked at the field bakery, cinema tickets for a West End Cinema Theatre offering free entry to wounded soldiers and sailors, ships being painted in “dazzle” camouflage and the Poppies poem “In Flanders fields”, written by Canadian medical officer John McCrae.   

Other topics include nurses, propaganda, a child’s war and letters and postcards. The section on animals features the black bear cub Winnie, a mascot later donated to the London Zoo where a young Christopher Milne saw him, went home and christened his own teddy bear “Winnie the Pooh”.
You can read more about Winnie here and here.

Author’s website
Linda Granfield’s website includes a section on books on war and remembrance. She has written about John McCrae whose poem “In Flanders fields” is 100 years old in May 2015, and about The unknown soldier all around the  world. 

"When I write non-fiction books, and you read them, we become time-travellers," she says.  
"History is all around us, inviting us to share our own family and community stories."

Find out more about her here.

Other books you might like:
Archie’s war by Marcia Williams is fiction, but told in a similar scrapbook style.

Things I didn’t know
I didn't know about the church of Notre Dame de Brebières (Our Lady of the Ewes) in the town of Albert, France, although I came across another reference to it just after reading this book. The statue of Mary and Jesus on top of the church was knocked sideways in 1915 by a shell bombardment. A legend developed that when it fell completely, the war would be over. 
In spring 1918, the Germans captured the town and the statue fell (but has since been restored); later that year, the war ended.
The other reference I came across mentioned that passing Australian soldiers would joke that it reminded them of the famous Australian swimmer, Fanny Durack.