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Grades: Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9

Defend or Die – The Siege of Hong Kong

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Defend or Die – the Siege of Hong Kong  – “I Am Canada” series

This historical fiction novel highlights Canada’s less written about contribution to WW11 – the Pacific theatre, particularly their role in the defence of Hong Kong Island.  The action begins in a prisoner of war camp on Hong Kong Island in 1942, but quickly flashes back to Toronto, 1941 and the background for eighteen-year old Jack Finnigan’s enlistment in the Royal Rifles of Canada and his deployment to the war in the Pacific.

Told in dairy format, the chapter alternate between life in the Japanese POW camps in 1942, and the horrific, valiant combat and Canadian losses before Hong Kong fell to the Japanese on December 25, 1941.  Themes of camaraderie, valour, loyalty, sacrifice, loss, and friendships forged through adversity, address the personal and human side of war.  As Jack observes, “War changes people….It brings out the best and the worst in people and you don’t know what it will do to you until you’re there.”

End notes include eight pages of archival photos, maps and newspaper clippings from the period.  “Author’s Notes” explain Chan’s personal connection to the story. Her husband’s family lived in Hong Kong at the beginning of WW11 and moved to a safer village in China when the Japanese invaded.

A mature read for grade 6; suitable for junior and senior high.



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