Monday, April 14, 2008

Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Ares Cheung

Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far written by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Ares Cheung

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Lobster Press (April 15, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1897073704
ISBN-13: 978-1897073704

Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far is the second book in Lobster Press' Canadian Immigration Series. The first book also written by Anne Renaud, Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île, was released in 2007. (see my review here)

Organized into different time periods, Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far tells the story of a shed-like building in Halifax Harbor that welcomed more than 1 million immigrants and refugees to Canada between 1928 and 1971. In addition to taking in newcomers, Pier 21 was the departure point of more than 500,000 service members on their way to fight in World War II.

Rather than give straight, boring facts, Renaud details interesting information through compelling accounts of the people who arrived at Pier 21. Children will especially find the stories of "home children" and "guest children" interesting. "Home children" were British children who were orphaned or whose parents could not care for them. In the 1930's, these children were sent to Canada to work for families in hopes of a better life. While many of the families these children were sent to treated them well, some did not. "Guest children," were evacuee children from war-torn Europe who were sent to Canada as part of the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB). Children will be surprised to learn why this program ended.

Other accounts in the book include those of war brides, European immigrants who came to Canada after WWII in hopes of a better life, and Hungarian "56ers", Hungarian refugees who arrived in Canada in 1956.

In addition to the main narrative, each page contains more information about the stories including real photographs, stories, and quotes; a "History Note" sidebar that expands on the narrative; and illustrations reflecting the period.

Like Island of Hope and Sorrow, Pier 21 puts a human face to immigration and war. The content and visuals make this book accessible to children of many ages, including "browsers" who may be reluctant to read books from cover to cover. It would also make a great supplement to any middle-grade history or social studies classroom.

Visit the rest of the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

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