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Monday, November 5, 2018

The Eleventh Hour, written and illustrated by Jacques Goldstyn. Translated by Anne Louise Mahoney. Owlkids. 2018. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"Europe divided into two enemy

And Canada was at war with

Jules and Jim didn't understand
all the news reports about
treaties and alliances, but they
understood that their country
needed them."

Jacques Goldstyn, an acclaimed Canadian cartoonist, has written a powerful and heartbreaking story of war and friendship. It is written 'In memory of George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian soldier to die on November 11, 1918. He was killed at 10:58 a. m., two minutes before the armistice ended the First World War.'

This emotional story is told of two boys who grow up together in the town where they are born. Jim is first, and Jules is two minutes late. They have much in common, with Jim always leading the way. It is no surprise that they enlist together when war is declared in Europe. They are some humorous moments for Jules while the two are in training.

Their 'jubilant welcome' in Europe is quickly forgotten when they get to the front lines.

"Jules and Jim had imagined war to be full
of epic battles and glorious charges.
They were surprised to find muddy trenches
surrounded by barbed wire instead."

And it gets much worse.

"But for the two friends, the slaughter continued with weapons
that were more and more terrible:
fighter planes, poison gas, tanks ...

The war was like a huge cauldron
that kept devouring men."

There is such dignity in Mr. Goldstyn's portrayal of loyalty, friendship, and war, and such sadness in portraying the realities of the conflict. The writing is direct and honest; the pencil and watercolor artwork is detailed and offers moments of humor, and others of total devastation. He tells a first-rate visual tale, start to finish.

The Great War ended 100 years ago. Today, fighting rages on around the world. Reading it with older students today is sure to spark conversations concerning the current conflicts that bombard them in daily news reports. I wish I were working in a classroom today. It is a story full of impact, and needs to be read.

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