Innes, Stephanie and Harry Endrulat. Bear on the Homefront. Illustrated by Brian Deines. Book Review.

Click here to buy Bear on the Homefront

The best feature of this book is the soft, realistic, and beautiful pictures. Brian Deines is an award-winning illustrator, and justifiably so. You can almost hear the sound of the ocean waves, clacking train, or wailing bagpipes when you study these beautiful pages.

The text is based on a family story. It is part of a series of anecdotes about the family’s experience during the Second World War. This one tells the tale of children sent from England to Canada to escape the bombing and severe rationing.

Two children, Grace and her little brother William, are homesick. Aileen, a nurse assisting with placement, gives William a small teddy bear for comfort. We follow the children from their landing in Halifax to their return to England, five years later. The book explains the children’s loneliness and fear. It would be an excellent jumping point for discussion of the impact on civilians of World War II. It could also be used to introduce children to the topic of separation.

I have to say, though, I found the viewpoint difficult, after the ship lands in Halifax the second page reads:

I watch from the pocket of Aileen’s uniform as the children walked down the ramp.

“Where are their mummies and daddies?” I asked.

“Still overseas,” Aileen said.…

It took me a while to figure out that the teddy bear was having a conversation with the nurse. He is the one who actually tells the story.

There is very little tension in the narrative. The reader is kept at a distance. It feels like a story a grandmother would tell of her experiences. Lovely, but not exactly enthralling.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages