Reading, A Way To Remember

by Marie Martel, Francophone editor, Lavalab



From November 1st, the poppy adorns shirts, coats and Canadian. Everyone is already in a period of commemoration and remembrance of the men and women who fought for our freedom. Attending Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11 is a well-known way to pay tribute to the men and women who have served Canada in times of war. There are many other ways to remember, at any other time of the year, the achievements and sacrifices of over a million and a half Canadians who have served and continue to serve, our country here and abroad, as well as some 118,000 men and women who gave their lives so that we can now live in peace and freedom. Commemorate and make sure to never forget these people, is a way to say “thank you”.


In schools, November 11th is celebrated. But what is for our young generations Memorial Day, what are the books about wars past and present that have marked them? These are the questions I asked to the students in grade 11 at the catholic school in Aurora.


For all these young students, November 11 is a day "to commemorate the soldiers who died in the war", " it is important to thank them for their work and take the time to remember those who have died for us." The sharing of dark periods of our history, for our young people is vital to understanding our past and building their future.


This communication and memory happen in different ways and reading literary works dealing with the subject of war is one of them. Whether a novel, a poem or even the lyrics of a song, each work impacts you, makes you think and makes you grow. These books are essential in that they are carriers of drama but especially courage and hope. Here is the list of books selected by our 11th graders, complete with works that seem unavoidable.


Books on World War I:


War Horse Michael Morpugo: Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse, Joey, live on a farm in the British countryside. At the outbreak of World War I, Albert and Joey are forcibly parted when Albert's father sells the horse to the British cavalry. Against the backdrop of the Great War, Joey begins an odyssey full of danger, joy and sorrow, and he transforms everyone he meets along the way. Meanwhile Albert, unable to forget his equine friend, searches the battlefields of France to find Joey and bring him home.






Private  Peaceful- Michael Morpugo: a stunning novel of the First World War, a boy who is on its front lines, and a childhood remembered.This is the story of a family whose three children live peacefully in the country until the war broke out.  The two older children go to war where they discover the inhuman conditions of the trenches.  Charlie, the eldest, disobeys the orders of the sergeant and stayed with his injured brother "Tommo".







Books on World War II:


The diary of a young girl Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank) is a book of the writings of Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in a concentration camp







The Book Thief - Markus Zusak: The Book Thief centers around the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II. Liesel's experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life in this era.







The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer:  This first novel, written by the American Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, is as a book of correspondence between Juliet, a young writer in London during World War II, and members of a book club on the island of Guernsey.






The Boy On The Wooden Box  - Léon Leyson:this remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list, “brings to readers a story of bravery and the fight for a chance to live”.







Books about recent wars:


The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini: Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.






Making Faces - Amy Harmon: Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.





A Bottle In The Gaza Sea- Valérie Zenatti : Tal is 17 years old. Naim is 20. She’s Israeli. He’s Palestinian. She lives in Jerusalem. He lives in Gaza. They were born in a land of scorched earth, where fathers bury their children. A bottle thrown in the sea and a correspondence by email nurture the slender hope that their relationship might give them the strength to confront this harsh reality to grapple with it, and thereby ever so slightly change it.






I could spend hours and hours to find you books dealing with this hot and moving subject. Reading these books is a way to remember but it is not the only one. I just hope that these readings, although they are not always pleasant because of the described atrocities and suffering experienced, are so strong and poignant, remain primarily a hope and message of humanity and a way to say "thank you ".

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