25. Shot at Dawn: World War I by John Wilson

Shot at Dawn: World War I, Allan McBride, France, 1917 by John Wilson (US) - (Canada)
I Am Canada series

Pages: 201
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 22, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre: YA, historical fiction, Canadian author, WWI
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I grew up on my father's ranch in the Nicola Valley in British Columbia.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan. 

Reason for Reading: I am reading this series plus I enjoy this author.

Publisher's Summary: "The reality of trench warfare is a shock to Allan McBride. Like many other young soldiers, he enthusiastically signed up for the chance to join the war effort and be a part of the fighting. But after months in the ravaged battlefields, watching men, including his friend Ken, get blown up by German shelling, something in Allan snaps and he leaves his unit, believing he is "walking home to Canada" to get help for his friend.

After nearly a week of wandering aimlessly, Allan is taken in by a band of real deserters — men who have abandoned their units and live on the edge of survival in the woods of northern France. Once Allan realizes what he's done, he is paralyzed by the reality of his circumstance: if he stays with these men, it's possible they will be found and have to face the consequences; and if he returns to his unit, he will be charged with desertion — a charge punishable by death.

In this outstanding new title in the I Am Canada series, acclaimed author John Wilson explores life in the horrific trenches of WWI and the effect of battle on a shell-shocked soldier."

Having read this author before I knew this would not be a book for young children.  John Wilson writes war stories that are gripping, horrific and page-turning.  He describes the death in graphic detail which is not for the faint of heart and yet he does so in few words without gratuitous adjectives.  The simple brief truth is enough to bring the reality of war home to the reader.  The "I Am Canada" series, while recommended for 8-12 year olds, is not consistently suitable for the age spread with each individual book.  Some books are OK for 8+ while others, like this one, are more for 12+ (as is suggested on the publisher's website).  So make sure you know the title will match your child's maturity when choosing. 

I found this book gripping and read it in one sitting which was only interrupted by a need to eat.  This is a brutal look at war and not very sympathetic to the soldiers' plight as we are only getting the point of view of one person.  Now, don't get me wrong, the reader is made sympathetic, terribly so, to the plight of the soldiers but the book does come across as harsh and slightly anti-war in its sympathies.  This is clarified though in the author's note which is very informative on the Canadian role in WWI and speaks particularly to Canada's pride and remembrance of soldiers who fought at Amiens.  I learnt quite a lot of information in this note about the shooting of British Empire soldiers for desertion.  A moving read which will appeal mostly to boys, and those who enjoy gripping and personal war stories.


  1. I think my daughter and I would like this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. We'll be sure to get your review on War Through the Generations soon!

  2. we've linked to your review on the War Through the Generations book reviews page and will have a sample on the home page on Feb. 9


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