March 01, 2017

The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace

Written by Linda Granfield
Illustrated by Brian Deines
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada)
978-1-4431-4850-4
36 pp.
Ages 7+
March 2017

On April 9th, 2017, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Many new books published to commemorate the anniversary will be based in the First World War and in that northern region of France.  However, though Vimy Ridge is the origin of this story, Linda Granfield takes young readers into the aftermath of the war when a soldier takes a little piece away with him and plants a world of peace and remembrance far, far away.
From back cover of The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines
With photographs and illustrations, Linda Granfield introduces young readers to the beginnings  of the Great War and the role of a young Canadian teacher Leslie H. Miller after his enlistment and deployment with the Canadian Signal Corps.  Along with diary observations of peoples and places and his job with the Signal Corps, Leslie Miller took note of the landscapes encountered and the trees growing within. While the battle at Vimy is noted, it is Leslie Miller’s collection of a few acorns from oak trees blasted during the attack that makes Linda Granfield’s story.  These acorns were shipped backed to his family in Ontario.  Leslie Miller returned to Canada in 1919 and, after ventures to university and teaching again, returned home to the family farm where the oak saplings from the acorns he gathered became the basis for the farm he and his new wife built, The Vimy Oaks.  The history of the farm and the trees, as well as the recognition of the importance of that battle on Vimy, complete the story of Linda Granfield’s The Vimy Oaks.
From The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines
The story of Vimy could be a horrific one but Linda Granfield’s text which she peppers with quotations from Leslie Miller’s diary is broad, encapsulating his experiences without embedding young readers in the horrors of his days. The Vimy Oaks is illustrated by Brian Deines, whose artwork has taken readers to different times and places in The Road to Afghanistan (2013), A Bear in War (2012), Bear on the Homefront (2014) and Adrift at Sea (2016). Here again Brian Deines is able to bring his deft oil work to giving light to dark times and shine to landscapes of war and verdant promise.

As a book of non-fiction, The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace provides an introduction to a monumental battle while intriguing readers with a little known story of Vimy on Canadian land. It’s a unique story and one that commemorates the battle with the promise of growth and majesty.  I was discouraged to hear some of the oaks were removed for the widening of a road but pleased to learn that the trees were part of the Vimy Oaks Repatriation Project that ensured the oaks would once again grow on Vimy Ridge, as well as at memorials across Canada.   It seems the oaks have come full circle, from Vimy to Canada and back to Vimy, perhaps as it should be.
From The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines

2 comments:

Darlene said...

You find the most wonderful books to review here. This was sounds awesome!

Helen K said...

Thanks, Darlene. It's easy with the wealth of youngCanLit out there. The hard part is getting to all of it!