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Author: Wilson, John
Illustrator: Rabjohn, R.H.
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Year Published: 2017
ISBN: 9781770498549
Grades: Grades 7 to 12

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn

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Russell Hughes (R.H.) Rabjohn was just eighteen years old when he joined the Canadian Army in World War I.  As a trained artist, he was encouraged to record his observations in the trenches. He also kept a diary of his experiences, including his observations, thoughts, and feelings over three years. This historically significant diary, includes his pencil illustrations, background information, his actual diary notes and details filling in the details which help his story unfold.  The use of different text allows readers to identify whether the author or RH Rabjohn is speaking to us as readers.  His descriptions range from intense anecdotes of the mud and bombs to his mechanical account of deaths which read more like a ‘catalog’ casualty list, rather than a loss of friends. His accounts appear rushed at times during the heat of battle compared to the sites he visited when not in combat.  The diary ends with his return to Canada, leaving readers wanting to know more about RH Rabjohn. This is a valuable first-hand account of World War I by a Canadian soldier, as no surviving soldiers from WWI are alive anymore.
The book is composed of detailed sketches by Rabjohn, telling the humour and horror of wartime.  The only photograph is that of Rabjoh and a photo of his actual journal at the beginning of the book.  He was actually used as an artist to map out trenches, and sketch graves of his fallen comrades.  Soldiers were not legally permitted to sketch, paint or take photos of fighting during conflicts.  An excellent example to use with students for art (sketching) and writing a diary.
Highly Recommended for Grades 7-12 Social Studies: Canadian History; World War I

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