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Innocent Heroes: Stories of animals in the…

Innocent Heroes: Stories of animals in the First World War

by Sigmund Brouwer

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an interesting blend of fiction and truth, interspersing a made-up, animal-centric storyline about men in a Canadian platoon during WWI with real facts about the animals featured in the different chapters.

On one hand, I really loved learning about all those different animals from WWI–and the Canadian platoon they were with, since I barely even knew before now that Canada participated in WWI! But then at times I felt like the way it was done, switching between chapters of fictional stories and then nonfictional explanations, made the narrative feel really disjointed. I kept forgetting who the various people were for quite a long time because I didn't read about them for so long in between chapters.

Also, and I suppose this is just an interesting cultural perspective, there is a lot of emphasis put on the supposed superiority of Canadian military tactics (basically, the generals see their soldiers as equals and give them room to interpret assignments as they wish) over the much more top-down American and British structures. While it does sound like the Canadian system is the one I would like to be in, I really don't know enough about military tactics to know which is ideal; I do, however, know from reading the book that Brouwer is definitely heavily in favor of Canada. And it's actually really interesting to read about WWI and military tactics from such a different angle than I usually do. I mean, let's be honest, there's really not much material out there about the Canadian perspective on most of the big wars.

Basically, it's a good book with a lot of interesting details that gets bogged down at times by the alternating format it's written in. I still liked it, though, and I suspect a lot of other people–especially kids with a passion for army history–will too, If you read it, please be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer giveaway. ( )
  Jaina_Rose | Dec 11, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What an interesting and inspiring set of stories! I feel like World War I so often gets eclipsed by the Second World War that I know so much less about it. I certainly wasn't aware of these stories of animals serving in war zones. Wonderful book, and I'm so glad I read it. ( )
  sstaheli | Oct 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Innocent Heroes by Sigmund Brouwer. Innocent Heroes is a book about the animals that are caught up in the horrors of World War One. Each fictional chapter is followed by the true story that inspired it. The stories not only talk about the heroism of the animals involved but also address issues of racism, the bond between soldiers, and the rise of the a national identity for Canada. I found the stories to be very heart warming and the three main human characters soon become very real. The amazing stories of the dogs, pigeons, horses, mules, and cats that interact and often save the lives of their human companions reinforce the bond that we know we have with the animal world. An important book for both young adults and adults. The history behind the stories of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and its part in the rise of of a Canadian identity was also most interesting. ( )
  dankeding | Aug 3, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Great historical fiction book about animals and their role during World War I. I like how after each chapter there is a section talking about the real animal that the previous fictional account is based from and gives other information about the soldiers and what they experienced during WWI. There is an bibliography, index, and a photo caption section in the back of the book. Highly recommend for upper elementary and middle school grades. ( )
  tdwells82 | May 10, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Brouwer, a prolific author of children’s literature has turned his attention to the historic feats of Canadian troops during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in 1917. He specifically explores the special relationships developed between people and animals in times of war through the exploits of fictional Jake York and his platoon of soldiers from the “Storming Normans” of the 36th Battalion.

Through a series of animal - soldier encounters, Brouwer explores the important wartime roles played by pigeons, dogs, horses, mules, cats and various mascots and delves into the special bonds which are cemented during times of war between man and beast. Although fictional, the book contains numerous factual side bars on the history of animals in war. Most of the examples in fact have no connection to the Canadian Expeditionary Force but have been appropriated to fit the Canadian setting. The sidebars deal as well with the nature of trench warfare, the role of machine guns, tunneling, triangulation of fire and other topics.

At odds with the general theme of the book is the story line of Cree warrior Thomas Northstar of Saskatchewan. He is symbolic of the history of Aboriginal soldiers who fought for Canada during the Great War only to return to a life of government control and marginalization. That this very important question of aboriginal rights would be appended to a book on animal heroes is awkward. The true facts of one of the more compelling stories, that of Sgt Cassels shedding his stripes in order to be closer with his enlisted men, is not revealed in the sidebars. Copy editing could have eliminated some repetition in the sidebars and standardized the inconsistent physical dimensions of Vimy Ridge cited throughout the book. Although a work of fiction Innocent Heroes presents much food for thought and encourages further exploration of Canada’s inspiring history of service and sacrifice during the First World War. ( )
  Kobzar | Apr 7, 2017 |
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A unique celebration of the important role animals play in war, and an insightful look at the taking of Vimy Ridge from the perspective of 3 men in a Canadian platoon. Never before have the stories of animal war heroes been collected in such a special way. This book consists of eight connected fictional stories about a Canadian platoon in WW1. The Storming Normans have help from some very memorable animals: we meet a dog who warns soldiers in the trench of a gas attack, a donkey whose stubbornness saves the day, a cat who saves soldiers from rat bites, and many more. Each story is followed by nonfiction sections that tell the true story of these animals from around the world and of the Canadian soldiers who took Vimy Ridge. Through the friendship that grows between three of these soldiers in particular, we get a close-up look at life in the trenches, the taking of Vimy Ridge, the bonds between soldiers and their animals and what it meant to be Canadian in WW1. From the Hardcover edition.… (more)

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