Earlier this year, my family and I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the battlefields of France. As a Newfoundlander, our first stop was Beaumont Hamel. (You can read more about that trip and see some photos here.) With those memories in mind and with Remembrance Day in November, I decided on Sharon E. McKay's Charlie Wilcox as my most recent read-aloud with my daughter.
Charlie Wilcox is about a Newfoundland boy who decides to stowaway on what he believes to be a sealing vessel heading for the ice floes. Instead he winds up at Beaumont Hamel, France during World War One.
It's a fantastic story, with a titular character that is likeable in his bravery and determination, but flawed in his naivete. It's a coming of age story, but no more so than most war stories. Who could make it through a war and remain the same person? At first I thought it was slow to begin, with the book almost half over before he stows away, but my daughter remained interested and in hindsight it was probably necessary. With a back story about Charlie, his clubbed foot operation, and his father's legacy, it lends a little more credibility to Charlie's stubborn persistence. War isn't really on his mind at all for this part of the book, which is not only realistic, but makes the coming shock all the greater. When Charlie does arrive at that fatal day, when approximately 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment is wiped out, McKay doesn't hold back. It's important that the young people who read this hear the truth. My daughter remarked several times that she doesn't get war. Good.
Often reading a book I feel like I can envision it as a movie. Yet for Charlie Wilcox, I kept thinking it would make a great play. I'm not sure why this was. Maybe there weren't a lot of scene changes? In any case, when I looked into later, I discovered that someone else must have had similar ideas. Apparently Geoff Adams of Clarenville's New Curtain Theatre Company turned Charlie Wilcox and its sequel Charlie Wilcox's Great War into a stage production. I'd love to see that.