A new book from Guelph author Ed Butts gives a nod to John McCrae as a means of teaching young readers to appreciate those who fought in the war.
In the young adult novel This Game of War, Butts’ main character Teddy, not only meets John McCrae as he is transported through the world wars, but recites lines from the poem In Flanders Fields to get out of desperate situations.
Readers follow Teddy, a student in Grade 8, through his journey in war situations in both the first and second world wars after receiving a special poppy a veteran gave him.
The magical poppy transports him back in time.
Teddy wanted to skip out on his school’s Remembrance Day observances and participate in a games competition instead.
“Teddy learns about the dangers that people faced in the war,” said Butts, and that there is nothing glorious about war.
Butts attends Remembrance Day observances every year in Guelph and he noticed many students from local schools attend.
“Some of them looked kind of bored. They're there because they had to be and maybe they don't really understand what it's all about,” said Butts.
This prompted Butts to write This Game of War as a young adult novel to give young readers insight into what it was like to fight in the war.
On Remembrance Day, years ago, Butts’ grandson asked to see his great-grandfather's medals.
“I dug them out and I showed him. And he said to me, ‘was he really in a war?’ said Butts.
Both of Butts’s parents were in the World War II. His grandson asked if they survived.
He explained they did survive because neither him or his grandson would be here today if they didn’t.
“It just seemed incredible (to his grandson) that people were really in wars, this wasn’t just movies, it really, really happened to people,” said Butts.
He said the book is a way for students to learn about history through the main character’s journey as he also learns about the battle of war.
Authenticity was something Butts wanted to capture in the book. In one scene in the novel there were artillery shells falling around Teddy. The soldiers called the shells Jack Johnson after a boxer who was the heavyweight champion of the world at the time.
“The soldiers called the artillery shells that the Germans were shooting at them Jack Johnson's because they carried such a punch,” said Butts.
Another phrase authentic to the time was “somebody went to church” meaning a soldier was killed.
When Teddy heard this phrase, he asked “did he go to church and not come back?” The soldiers had to explain the meaning to him.
Butts’ said this is a departure form his previous books, mostly non-fiction history-based works.
This Game of War will be on bookshelves on Oct. 15