Bear on the Homefront reviews

The New York Times

BearOnTheHomefront_RGB_72dpiWith well-paced storytelling and soft, nostalgic watercolor illustrations, this follow-up to the World War I picture book “A Bear in War” tells another true story of the stuffed bear Teddy, this one set during World War II. Teddy’s owner, Aileen, who as a child had sent Teddy to her father while he was in Europe fighting the Great War, is now a nurse assigned to accompany British children sent to Canada during the bombing of London as they travel by train to their host families.

A brother and sister named William and Grace seem especially sad, and she lets them take Teddy, who narrates the tale, offering his own separation from Aileen as a comforting parallel to the children’s predicament…”

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Kirkus Reviews

“A brother and sister evacuated from England during World War II gather strength from a tiny teddy bear.

Grace and William are sent from their home to live with a host family in Canada until the war is over. On arrival, the pair meets Aileen, a nurse who travels with all of the children to make sure they get to their Canadian families safely. Grace and William are scared and homesick, but a small, peanut-shaped bear from Aileen’s pocket helps to comfort them. Teddy narrates the story, which is a bit jarring at first, but Teddy’s gentle tone ends up bringing readers just as much comfort as it does Grace and William. Teddy is the hero from the creative team’s previous real-life war story, A Bear in War (2009), in which a young Aileen Rogers sends the bear to her father stationed in Belgium during World War I. The story is inspired by Rogers’ diary, kept 25 years later while working as a nurse. Teddy might not have had this exact adventure, but the tale truly shows the reassuring presence of just the right toy. Deines’ warm oil paintings, suffused with light, are as tender as Teddy’s tiny embrace.

Child readers, in wartime or not, will give their teddies an extra, grateful squeeze. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-10)”

School Library Journal

“In this companion piece to Bear in War (2012), Teddy the stuffed bear provides comfort to two young children who have been evacuated from England to Canada during World War II. In the first book, Teddy is the real-life connection between Aileen Rogers and her father who was fighting on the front lines in World War I. When her father was killed, Teddy was returned to Aileen who kept it as a memento of her late father. Teddy turns up again in this story when Aileen is grown and working as a nurse with English evacuees in Canada. Sensing the uncertainty and loneliness in the two children she is escorting to their temporary home, Aileen gives Teddy to Grace and William for their time away from England. This story offers children a glimpse into what life had to have been like during that time period when youngsters were forced to leave their families so that they might survive the war. The host family has a working farm that the children help with over the five years of the war. When it is time to go back home, the children decide that Teddy needs to return to Aileen as well. The story is touching without any hint of sentimentality. The soft, warm palette of the art is beautifully rendered in oils and adds the perfect touch to this heartwarming story.”
—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Publishers Weekly

“…Rendered in a muted palette, Deines’s lush oil paintings showcase the Canadian landscape as the children make their way by train to Winnipeg to live on a family’s farm until the war ends. Once again, Teddy narrates the story, and his separation from Aileen tenderly mirrors the children’s distance from their parents…”

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Booklist Online

“This companion to A Bear in War (2009) extends the story of a Canadian girl’s teddy bear, who rode out WWI in the uniform pocket of the girl’s father and was returned after the he died in battle. Now, during WWII, the little girl has grown into a nurse assigned to a train carrying “guest children” across Canada. These children have been sent by their British parents to escape Nazi bombings.

Nurse Aileen befriends a brother and sister who are being sent to a farm couple in Winnipeg and gives Teddy to the boy to comfort him. As before, Teddy narrates the story and also speaks directly to the boy and his sister. Deines’ watercolors impart a nostalgic feel to the story, which lasts until the end of the war, when the two children return home and Teddy returns to Aileen. Though lacking the photos that helped make the first book so fascinating, this is an appealing look into a little-known part of WWII.”
— Connie Fletcher

Resource Links

Bear on the Homefront continues the true life adventure of a Teddy Bear begun in the book A Bear in War. Poignant and tender in its writing, this picture book helps to teach today’s children about real life experiences during World War II. Bear on the Homefront, told from the bear’s point of view, recounts how children were sent from England to Canada for safe keeping during the war and follows a young boy and girl, along with Teddy, who became guests of a family living on a farm in western Canada. The story shares a touch of their lives over the five years they spent on the farm, including how much they miss their parents and their home in England. Teddy, too, misses his family, Nurse Aileen. When the war is over and William and Grace go home to England, Teddy, too, is sent home to Nurse Aileen in Montreal.

An excellent springboard for classroom investigations about World War II and its affects (sic) on all aspects of life. Also, a highly recommended excellent discussion starter and catalyst for reflection on the affects of war on children. In addition, using both together provides the impetus for research into the Canadian War Museum and its artifacts, along with the importance of family history, first hand accounts of historical events and primary sources of information in our society.”

CM Magazine

“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..Those who enjoyed the first book will find the quality of the sequel equally impressive and the story equally engaging…

…Brian Deines is one of Canada’s foremost illustrators. His heavily textured oil on canvas paintings are a visual treat…Bear on the Homefront is an elegant book that parents and educators will enjoy sharing with young children. Highly Recommended.”

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National Reading Campaign

“Innes and Endrulat cleverly tell the story from Teddy’s point of view, so the reader, like Teddy, hears Aileen’s explanations of what is going on as well as William’s and Grace’s secrets.  Like the two children, Teddy ends up spending the war far from his beloved Aileen wondering if he will ever see her again.

Brian Deines soft atmospheric illustrations and rich colours convey an old-fashioned feel to the story. An afterword gives some background on the real Aileen (great-aunt of Stephanie Innes) and the real Teddy who now resides at the Canadian War Museum.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“This is the second picture book about a teddy bear’s adventure created by the team of Stephanie Innes, Harry Endrulat and Brian Deines. The first book, A Bear in War, follows the adventures of a teddy bear on the front lines during World War I. In this second book, Bear on the Homefront, the reader follows this same teddy bear’s adventures, except the story takes place on the homefront during World War II.

During the second World War, as a result of the heavy bombings, many English children were shipped to allied countries to keep them safe. In Bear on the Homefront, Grace and William Chambers are sent to Canada to live with a family on their farm in Winnipeg. In Halifax, they are met by a nurse named Aileen Rogers, who accompanies them on their journey. To help alleviate the fear and stress the children are feeling, Aileen gives them her beloved teddy bear to comfort them while they’re in Canada. The teddy bear recounts the events that happen during his time with the children until he is returned to Aileen once again.

The story is created using events from Aileen Rogers’ diary and making her real-life teddy bear the narrator. Giving the teddy bear a voice and telling the story from his perspective makes the book more appealing to young readers and enables parents and educators to introduce history in an interesting way. The book can also be used with older readers as a means of introducing some of the events that occurred in World War II and providing further opportunities for children to research the events and facts for the time period presented in the text.

The beautiful and calming illustrations by Brian Deines enhance the text and hold the reader’s attention. Bear on the Homefront is a wonderful way to introduce children to history. It can be used to generate discussions about feelings that accompany life changes and to encourage children to seek out further information about world history.”
—Delia Cipollone Antonacci is a Professor in the Library and Information Technician Program, Seneca College

The Calgary Herald

“In the first book of Teddy, A Bear in War, we follow the little bear as he’s shipped off to keep Aileen’s Daddy company during the war. Her father never returns but Teddy does, and he now sits in a glass case at the Canadian War Museum. In this second book, Aileen is working as a nurse. She presents Teddy to children who have come to live temporarily in the safety of Canadian homes. These two heartwarming stories, with softly coloured illustrations, will be read and appreciated by ages five to adult.”

SavvyMom.ca

“…Bear on the Homefront, a beautifully illustrated children’s book, tells the true story of the guest children who came to live in Canada during WWII. It’s all told from the perspective of ‘Teddy’, a beloved stuffed bear, and manages to talk about war in a way that is gentle, fascinating and educational…”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Inspired by events recounted in Aileen Rogers’ diary, Bear on the Homefront takes Teddy out of the war zone but still working to comfort those impacted by war. And by giving Teddy a voice, Stephanie Innes (the great niece of Aileen Rogers) and Harry Endrulat have endeared the little bear with even more heart than his simple form may suggest.  His longing for Aileen and his honest reflections are not dissimilar to the children’s own, though they all recognize the value in perseverance, even if it is difficult.

The text and atmospheric oil on canvas illustrations of Brian Deines lend an authenticity to the memories held within Bear on the Homefront.  Teddy has an important story to tell…For his heroic efforts in comforting and giving voice to others when their own words and thoughts probably failed them, Teddy is now safe and treasured at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  So, Bear at the Homefront gives us one more happy ending from a time when there weren’t many.”
–Helen K

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