All nominated for the Cybils, review copies all from Scholastic Canada because for some reason they are not available in the US through most major jobbers.
Wilson, John. Shot at Dawn: World War I. Allan McBride, France, 1917
Allan decides to join up to follow in the footsteps of a childhood friend, Ken, who is serving in France. The training that the Canadian troops go through is especially brutal, to the point where a deserter and organizer tries to get the men to rebel, which they do after a soldier is beaten by the military police. Once the troops start to see action, it's even worse. Remember, WWI had trench war fare and poison gas, and the toll of the troops was horrendous. When Allan thinks that he sees Ken die, and feels responsible for the death of another comrade, he wanders off to find help back in Canada, since he is so shell shocked. When he finally returns to his unit, he is tried as a deserter, hence the title.
Strengths: No one writes war fiction like Wilson. No one. I am glad that this was nominated so I could get a copy. He has the perfect blend of action and adventure, but with the horrible consequences that something like Lynch's I Pledge Allegiance didn't really show.
Weaknesses: Limited availability through Follett and Baker and Taylor make this hard to acquire. See previous post: I'm trying to cut down on the amount of books I buy with my own money.
Jamie's family has been living in England for his father's banking job but is heading home to Canada. Jamie and a few shipboard friends get into all sorts of trouble, climbing around the ship, and enjoy the fancy surroundings. Jamie meets a man going to Ireland to become a priest; this man takes a lot of pictures of the interior of the ship, which are some of the few to survive. Of course, before long the ship hits the iceberg and starts to sink. Details of how life boats were filled, of how men were left behind, and of how Jamie manages to get into a life boat, survive the bitter cold, get rescued, and make it home from New York City to Canada after the death of his father make up the last part of the book.
Strengths: There are a ton of Titanic books coming out, and this is my favorite so far. It was easier to follow one main character (based on a real person!) and the details about after being rescued were something I hadn't really read.
Weakness: I'd love to see all of Brewster's work; he has some war books that look really good, like at Vimy Ridge and Dieppe: Canada's Darkest Day of WWII, but I can't get them easily. Sigh.
Ellis, Sarah. That Fatal Night: The Titani Diary of Dorothy Wilson: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1912.
Dorothy has survived the Titanic and is back home, and she really doesn't want to talk about it. She's gotten suspended from school because of an incident at school and is being tutored at home. She feels that the death of the woman accompanying her home from her grandparents in England is somehow her fault, and she is tired of being asked about her experiences and hates to hear about the funerals of all of the people who died. To try to deal with her emotions over this traumatic experience, she writes small plays that detail what she went through.
Strengths: A lot of good information about daily life in 1912, and an interesting twist on the Titanic experience.
Weaknesses: Like most of the Dear America diaries, this one is somewhat whiny. The diary format often seems to concentrate on how the girls feel instead of descriptions of the historic time period, and I find this slightly wearying.
Clarissa is crushed when she doesn't get a part in the school play but her best friend Benji does, and she also has to deal with her mother, who not only is going through treatment for cancer and is not yet in remission, but is also dating her personal trainer. Clarissa's love life has some bright moments; she goes out with Josh, but one of her friends may be dating him, and other friends think that Benji may be interested in her. Clarissa has a nice group of friends, and the town they live in is small enough for them to walk around and go out to a lot of places.
Strengths: Just a fun, upbeat story of middle school and all the permutations of personal relationships. Very reminiscent of Ellen Conford, whom I adore.
Weaknesses: Could be a bit more cohesive plot, but maybe I missed something not having read the first book, Words That Start With B.