Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Canada at War

This would have been great subject matter four days ago...

Canada at War: a Graphic History of World War Two is a 2012 graphic novel from publisher Douglas & McIntyre, writer Paul Keery and illustrator Michael Wyatt. Using plain language and clear illustrations, it describes Canada's involvement in World War II, from the post-WWI misgivings about involvement in European wars to some post-WWII fallout. Special attention is granted to those Canadians who won medals during the conflict.

This isn't quite a graphic novel - it is told through words and pictures, but has so much material to cover that it's really an essay with copious illustrations and very little sequential storytelling. One exception is a sequence detailing how Rev. John Foote helped evacuate soldiers from Dieppe, then allowed himself to be captured so he could help Canadian prisoners. It's a fine story I hadn't heard of before and definitely worth singling out, but as I say, it's one of the few moments of the war given a dramatization.

The text is written in a very simple manner, probably so it could be used in classrooms. Heck, ESL students would probably do well with this book. It's not as sophisticated as the sort of comic books I read in my youth; I think you could hand to a primary student and he'd do okay (although you'd have to weigh that against all the blood in this book).

It's worth noting neither of these creators have a background in graphic novels, which probably contributes to the "illustrated textbook" feel of the tome. Wyatt's work uses a lot of Photoshop effects - I wouldn't be surprised if all or most of it was composed there. Details like the one above, showing a soldier offering himself as bait to snipers to protect the rest of his squad are fascinating. In all, the book told me a lot about my nation's involvement in the war which I didn't know about; if you're teaching about Canada in WWII in a classroom, or missed out on learning the details (we had a term on WWI in my high school but not WWII), this is a fine piece.

No comments: