________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 41. . . .June 20, 2014


Bear on the Homefront.

Stephanie Innes & Harry Endrulat. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-927485-13-2.

Subject Headings:
World war, 1939-1945-Children-Great Britain-Juvenile literature.
World war, 1939-1945-Children-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Teddy bears-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

***½ /4

Reviewed from f&gs.



I watched 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. “England is being bombed in the war, so many families have sent their children to Canada, where they’ll be safe.”


One of the best Canadian picture books of 2012 was A Bear in War. The team of Stephanie Innes, Harry Endrulat, and Brian Deines have collaborated again to bring readers another adventure of the teddy bear that now resides in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Whereas A Bear in War involved events of the First World War, Bear on the Homefront involves events of the Second World War. Whereas the first book involved events at the front line, as the title of the sequel suggests, it involves events on the homefront. Those who enjoyed the first book will find the quality of the sequel equally impressive and the story equally engaging.

     Given the heavy bombings of England during the Second World War, many English children were shipped to other Allied countries for their safe-keeping. In this book, Grace and William Chambers travel to Canada and then board a train to cross from the Maritimes to their new home in Winnipeg. They meet the nurse, Aileen Rogers. Sensing the children’s loneliness, she kindly gives them the teddy bear that her father carried with him in France during the First World War. Given her sentimental attachment to the teddy bear, it was a magnanimous gift from the real-life Aileen. Innes and Endrulat again provide a compelling, informative, and evocative text. Innes is the great-niece of Aileen Rogers, and so the story obviously has personal significance for her, but she and Endrulat do a good job of making the story of value to all.

internal art      Brian Deines is one of Canada’s foremost illustrators. His heavily textured oil on canvas paintings are a visual treat. The interesting compositions in this book feature dominant figures prominently positioned in the foregrounds. The placement of the text brings balance to each double-page spread. It is an effective book design that makes for a visually stimulating viewing and reading experience.

      The story’s being told from the first-person perspective of the teddy bear makes these bear books an intriguing blend of fantasy, history, and biography. The use of the teddy bear narrator makes the book accessible for young readers whilst still retaining the educative potential of the books for older readers. Bear on the Homefront is an elegant book that parents and educators will enjoy sharing with young children.

Highly Recommended.

Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba where he specialises in literature for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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