Seasons Before the War
Bernice Morgan, illustrated by Brita Granstrom
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides
In this tale that begins, “Once upon a time, long, long ago…” author Bernice Morgan lovingly recounts the joys and trials of everyday life in her childhood home of St. John’s, Newfoundland. With the Second World War casting a vague but ominous shadow, she and her siblings spent their days playing in the streets and fields, the back alleys and parks.
There were more horses than trucks at that time, and in their neighbourhood there were bulls-eye shops and a blacksmith shop, dressmakers and shoemakers and a carpenter shop where their father worked.
Morgan recalls starting school—and the disappointment it turned out to be despite the exquisite pencil box Aunt Sophie bought her—and the long, cold winters, the almost unbearable anticipation of the announcement that Toyland would soon open, meaning that Christmas was very near. Fond memories of simpler times, just before the world would change forever, that she holds in her heart even still.
This nostalgic recollection of a particular time and place exudes a sense of wistful longing and the sober recognition of how much has changed. Morgan’s poetic descriptions are vivid and evocative, and tinged with the sadness of knowing what dreadful darkness lay just around the corner.
For young readers of today, it feels like the best type of picture-book diary: one that is heartfelt and affectionate as it portrays the small but meaningful minutiae of daily life in a different time.
This beautiful ode to times past is also a coffee-table book to be savoured by adults. Brita Granstrom’s delicate and intricate illustrations are a perfect complement to the text, beautifully depicting each scene with myriad details. The free and sketchy brushwork gives them a vague and indistinct quality that suits the narrative.
Exquisitely designed, written and illustrated, this is a charming work of historical fiction/remembrance.