I'm celebrating Canada this year with a monthly review of a Canadian book. It's part of Canadian Bookworm's 13th Annual Book Challenge.
June, 2019 was the perfect time to read Harriet Zaidman’s new middle grade novel set here in Winnipeg. City on Strike takes place in May and June of 1919. Of course, it’s always a good time to read historical fiction . . . my favourite type of fiction.
What I most appreciated about this particular book was the setting and I know I’ll never walk some of Winnipeg’s downtown streets without being haunted by the characters of Zaidman’s novel. While many of the buildings might be gone, the street names remain. Main, Higgins, Andrews, Flora in the North End . . . and even the still elegant and ritzy Wellington Crescent belonging to the South End. This is Winnipeg, divided by railyards.
I think Zaidman does a decent job of re-imagining the lives of 13-year-old Jack and his sister, 11-year-old Nellie. At times, I got frustrated with the history lesson that kept getting in the way of the characters, but there’s a lot of history to be learned and I came away with a deeper appreciation of this important time of labour unrest in our city.
I love having history told in story form like this and I’m sure this book will appeal to educators and anyone interested in Canadian social and cultural studies. It’s sad to think that these very issues continue to haunt our capitalistic society. This novel can be used as a catalyst to important conversations about 2019 values and I can see it becoming a prairie classic.