Friday, October 24, 2008

A Remembrance Day Flower Story Not About Poppies: A Bloom of Friendship Review

Review by Scott Tingley


I’ll come back to that.

Tomorrow night my wife and I plan on attending the new Canadian movie, Passchendaele. If you are Canadian and you aren’t sure if the movie is going to be set in World War I or WWII, the rule of thumb is that if you have heard the name of the battle, and that battle isn’t Dieppe, then it was in WWI.

That really annoys me. I may not have encyclopedic knowledge of Canada’s military heritage, but the majority of us Canadians have little or no understanding of what our countrymen (and women) have endured on the world’s battlefields and at home. We were feared. We were loved. In the past few years (10?) there has been a push to get people out to Remembrance Day celebrations, but I still don’t find that knowledge of specific events has gone up.

A Bloom of Friendship: The Story of the Canadian Tulip Festival by Anne Renaud and Ashley Spires does a nice job of filling a little part of this void for teachers and the young readers they...teach.

Basically, Bloom tells this story that I got from Wikipedia: In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of the Netherlands, so that the birth could formally be claimed to have occurred on Dutch territory. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.

In telling this story the book tells a big part of the story of WWII and Canada’s part in it.

When I fist saw the cover of Bloom, I was hoping it would be a storybook that I could use with early elementary kids, but instead I got so much more. Primary Documents! I didn’t know what a primary document was until University, but this book is full of them. Newspaper clippings and photos are interspersed with chunks of text and “Instant History Facts” to tell the story of the Dutch royal family, Canada’s battle experience in Holland and the whole war in general.

I am very impressed with this book, and I am going to ask my principal to order multiple copies for next year’s Rembrance Day studies (and if I get them this year we will use it whenever).

I will be using the book with my grade 3 class over the next few weeks and I would highly recommend it for upper elementary and middle school students. Even though the cover and format will likely come across as too kid-ish for the middle schoolers it can still be a good teacher resource. As much as I like the internal pictures by Spires, I wish a different cover image was used. I wonder if older elementary and early middle school students will be receptive to a book that, at first glance, looks like a primary storybook.

ISBN: 978-1-897073-35-3, Non-fiction, Ages: 9 – 12, paperback and hardcover, 24 pages, Reading level: 7.4 (AR)


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1 comment:

Treasures By Brenda said...

I love this book, as an adult who was looking for more history about the tulip festival. I wrote a book review at A Bloom of Friendship and would welcome your comments there. It is too bad that the hardcover book seems to be unavailable. This book makes a lovely souvenir of the festival but the paper edition is just not quite as nice!