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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembering John McCrae, written by Linda Granfield. Scholastic, 2009. $16.99 ages

"John would have agreed with the
ranking of soldier in first place. His
list would have put doctor next, closely
followed by writer. Words were important
to him, whether they appeared in a medical
journal or a book of verse. He read constantly
throughout his life, during breaks from hospital
rounds in Canada or whenever he was posted

I was lucky some years ago to attend a workshop given by Linda Granfield, where she spoke about research and the her process for finding intriguing subjects and amazing artifacts before starting a new book. She is an inveterate collector of 'things' and willingly shared her insatiable curiosity. In this book about the man who penned 'In Flanders Field' she uses the scrapbook format as a way of gathering and presenting the research that she did. She follows his life from birth to death, culminating with the wearing of the poppy in remembrance.

Readers will find themselves coming to know this fine man throughout his life. Using a balance of text and pictures, Linda Granfield gives her readers access to John McCrae, sharing clear information and captioned photos from his life. As with all good nonfiction, readers move from place to place on the page, gathering needed information as they go. Historically accurate, she offers much of interest in exploring the past.
Archival photos add to the feelings of immediacy and make a personal connection with this beloved man.
His letters provided rare glimpses of wartime action to those far from the front lines. The death of a close friend inspired him to take pen in hand and write his most famous poem. It was composed in twenty minutes. Despite the fact that he wrote much more, it is this one that has eclipsed all the others.

I like the design, which allows her audience to move around the text, gathering much information as they go. This not Linda Granfield's first book about the man or his poem. She has written other books about war and her writing is well-known and highly respected. Her subjects are varied and hold our interest. Her bibliography is worthy of attention and her many books should find a place in homes and on library shelves. She honors her subjects with diligent research, fine writing and an abiding need to inform.

Included in this fine book are the following: Significant Events in the Life of John McCrae, a Glossary, Acknowledgments, Credits, an Index, a Bibliography and this quiet reminder:

"If you see a poppy
And if it nods its head,
Walk softly,
Go around it,
For it marks a soldier's bed."

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