Canada and the First World War


03 Book List

Children – Ages 9 to 14: Fiction Chapter Books

And in the Morning

John Wilson
Kids Can Press, 2002

Description: A story told through the diary of a 16-year-old named Jim who goes to war after his father’s death in battle. The author researched many of the characters at the Imperial War Museum. Though not an anti-war novel, this book shows effects of the war on individuals, and their relationships with others.

Also available in French under the title: Au petit matin

Brothers Far from Home: The World War I Diary of Eliza Bates, Uxbridge, Ontario, 1916

Jean Little
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2003

Description: Eliza and her family cope with her two brothers being away at war in this story about life on the home front in Canada. Eliza cannot understand why her parents are upset when her brother Hugo enlists. She is excited about the adventure he is embarking on, and caught up in the impressive spectacle of the marches put on by departing soldiers. When her other brother, Jack, enlists and the casualty lists start being published, Eliza realizes that what she really wants is for both of her brothers to come safely home.

Also available in French under the title: Mes frères au front : Élisa Bates, au temps de la Première Guerre mondiale, Uxbridge, Ontario, 1916

Charlie Wilcox

Sharon E. McKay
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Kids, 2000

Description: The first of a two-part series. Charlie, a 14-year-old Newfoundlander, wants to work at sea just like his father and uncles. His parents have other ideas and intend to send him to university. Angry that he cannot follow in his father’s footsteps, Charlie stows away on what he thinks is a sealing ship. Only when the ship is far out at sea does Charlie discover it is taking soldiers to the war in Europe. Since he is too young to fight, Charlie sets to work as a stretcher bearer on the Somme.

Charlie Wilcox’s Great War

Sharon E. McKay
Toronto, ON: Penguin, 2003

Description: In the second of two books in the Charlie Wilcox series, 17-year-old Charlie returns to Newfoundland after the war, forever changed by his wartime experiences. His hometown is saddened by the deaths of so many young men, and Charlie feels unable to tell them of the horrors he experienced for fear of burdening them with more grief.


John Reid
Halifax, NS: Fernwood Books, 2004.

Description: Lev, Leon Trotsky’s son, and Alexi, a Ukrainian Canadian boy, become friends, and soon Alexi’s whole family is involved in the plot to free Trotsky from the internment camp in Amherst, Nova Scotia. This book is based on the true event of Leon Trotsky’s imprisonment in Nova Scotia during the First World War.

A short epilogue separates fact from fiction in the writing of the story.

Irish Chain

Barbara Haworth-Attard
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2004

Description: Rose, a young Halifax girl with dyslexia, is concerned that she will be held back in school, meaning that next year she would be in the same class as her little sister.

Rose prays that she will no longer have to go to school. When the ships explode in Halifax Harbour, she worries it might have been her fault as she struggles amidst the rubble of the city to reunite her family.

An illustrated author’s note provides further detail on the Halifax explosion.

A Kind of Courage

Colleen Heffernan
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005

Description: The story is about Hattie, a young farm girl. While her older brother, Will, is away fighting in the First World War, neighbours ridicule her father for hiring a conscientious objector to help with the farm labour.

This book provides a very readable glimpse into the lives of conscientious objectors and wartime farmers.

Lesia’s Dream

Laura Langston
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2003

Description: This is the story of Lesia, a young Ukrainian girl, and her family and their struggles. They emigrate to Canada from Ukraine and experience the hardship of clearing their farmland in Manitoba. During the First World War, the family is instructed to register with the government as “enemy aliens” and the men are sent to an internment camp.

An author’s note provides statistics and information on Ukrainian internment.

Lord of the Nutcracker Men

Iain Lawrence
New York, NY: Laurel Leaf, 2003

Description: When Johnny is ten, war breaks out in Europe. His father, a well-known toymaker, joins the army early in the war and begins mailing to Johnny soldiers that he has carved from wood during long hours in the trenches.

Johnny sets up his own trenches and battlefields in his aunt’s backyard in the country. Using as German soldiers a set of nutcracker men he received for his ninth birthday, and as Allies the figures his father sends him from the trenches, Johnny wages his own miniature war in the yard. After several coincidences, Johnny begins to wonder whether his toy soldier battles are influencing events on the front.

This book was diligently researched. The author traveled from Canada to England to further his research after conducting initial studies at various libraries in Canada, including the Military History Research Centre of the Canadian War Museum. A detailed author’s note provides context.

Available in French under the title: Le général des soldats de bois

No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917

Julie Lawson
Markham, ON: Scholastic, 2006

Description: Charlotte’s brother, Luke, gives her a diary for her twelfth birthday in July 1917. He asks her to use it to record her life at home. In return, he promises to keep a record of his experiences at the front.

The war overshadows Charlotte’s day-to-day life: her friend Eva is teased because her father is German; a boy’s uncle comes home from the front suffering from shellshock; and a friend’s brother injures himself intentionally so that he cannot be conscripted. Amidst this turmoil, the Halifax explosion occurs. Charlotte vividly records the aftermath in her diary as she awakens disoriented in a hospital and struggles to piece together how she ended up there with hundreds of others.

A historical section describes the history of Halifax and its role in supporting the war effort. This section also includes information on the ships that collided, the Mont-Blanc and the Imo, and a ‘scrapbook’ of related pictures, documents, and maps.

Rilla of Ingleside

Lucy Maude Montgomery
Toronto, ON: Seal Books, 1987

Description: In this final novel of the Anne of Green Gables series, Anne’s daughter, Rilla, copes with life on the home front during the First World War. Rilla’s three brothers have gone to fight in Europe and the love of her life goes too as soon as his broken ankle has healed. Rilla feels alone and confused as she enters an adult world overshadowed by war and grief.

The Star Supper: Book Three (Our Canadian Girl)

Troon Harrison
Toronto, ON: Penguin, 2006

Description: Middle-class Toronto girl Millie is sad that Christmas will not be the same as usual this year. Her father is in Europe fighting in the First World War, and her mother is busy with her working in the temperance movement. Many of the people around Millie are heading off to war as nurses and soldiers.

Millie learns through a friend’s mother about the internment camps for ‘enemy aliens.’ She befriends the family of an interned man and invites them for Christmas dinner, along with an English immigrant friend, a friend of Polish heritage, and her Aboriginal relatives. Millie’s first Christmas without her father is happy after all.