Innocent Heroes

I haven’t read any books by Sigmund Brouwer since I was probably 12 or something, so this was a weird re-introduction to an author that my little brother was really into. I was bored by the male characters at as a 12-year-old girl, but I totally get that Brouwer is trying to encourage boys to read, since they aren’t big readers. I think it’s great.

Anyway, I was glad to read Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War instead of some sports mystery because I can’t imagine I’m much more interested in those now. And topically, the First World War always gets my attention. And I love animals. All the animals. Especially fluffy bunnies, although there aren’t any of those in this book. There are dogs, cats, pigeons and horses mostly, and a mule for good measure.

This is a story about Vimy Ridge and a fictional platoon training for that epic battle, supplemented by animal stories. The animals deliver messages, eat rats or bring soldiers medical supplies in No Man’s Land. After each story segment about a specific animal, he includes a non-fictional explanation about the animal that inspired the story and adds some non fiction detail to subjects like the involvement of First Nations peoples in the First World War.

I haven’t read about Vimy Ridge in awhile either, at least not from a Canadian perspective, and I felt strangely nationalistic reading about the amazing planning and panache of Canadian soldiers who managed to overcome the Germans there and turn the tide of battle. I guess we’re not just polite after all.

I hope they make school kids read this. It was more informative, and way more interesting, than most textbooks, as far as I can remember.  

Sigmund Brouwer was at Events 20 (The Jungles of Adolescence) and 40 (Innocent Heroes) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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