June 19, 2019

Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War: Guest blog post

Today's review has been submitted by Grade 5 student Bronte L.

Written by Sigmund Brouwer
208 pp.
Ages 9-12

Innocent Heroes by Sigmund Brouwer follows fictional Canadian animal war heroes to see how they contributed in World War I. Every short story is followed by the historical record behind it, and how that animal helped in the war.

There are many animal heroes in Innocent Heroes including Little Abigail, the pigeon, who was trained to carry messages to headquarters. She travelled long distances while the war continued on around her. Tomato the Airedale Terrier was also trained to deliver messages between trenches. When a surprise gas attack comes from the enemy, it's up to Tomato to try to warn the soldiers. Mercy dogs relayed messages in their own way. Biscotte, for example, was one of the many French mercy dogs who went out into enemy trenches to find injured soldiers. If a soldier was found alive, the dog would rip a piece of their uniform, deliver it back to his fellow soldiers and a rescue planned.

Some animals helped eased the hardships endured by the soldiers. Cats like Boomer made the Canadian trenches less horrible places for the soldiers by hunting rats. Living in the trenches was dirty, tiring, and not at all like home. The rats made it even worse, biting soldiers while they were trying to get some sleep before the busy day ahead. This is where Boomer the cat was helpful. Boomer would come out at night to hunt for rats, bringing them to Boomer’s owner and the lucky soldiers who would roast and eat them.  Mascots also played an important role. There were hundreds of trenches so the mascots helped to identify them. One such mascot, Leo the lion cub helped comfort soldiers and occasionally even make them laugh.

Other animals were used as work animals. Coal Dust was a horse and the trusty partner of Lance who lead other men on horses on scouting missions into areas full of dangerous craters made by shells. But when the shelling started up again and all the other horses and men scattered, it was up to Coal Dust to come to Lance's rescue. Mules know when danger is coming and think before they act, so mules were very useful in the war. Such was the work of Charlie the mule who sensed danger while walking with soldiers.  Louise the horse was one of the hundreds of horses that carried shells over to cannons to be fired at the enemy. Horses would haul load after load, four shells each, much too heavy for a soldier to carry.

I enjoyed this book because normally when we think of war, we think of human soldiers fighting for peace with guns and cannons. We think of the peace they brought us. But we generally forget the animal heroes that helped win victory. So now, after reading this book when I think of war I remember more than the human soldiers. I also will remember the carrier pigeons and the mercy dogs and the many animals. Without them, I don’t know if we would have been able to win the war.

I would recommend this book to ages 10  and up. Also I'd recommend it to readers interested in history, the war, animal lovers, and everyone else. The fictional but imaginative story line gives you an idea of what each animal would do.  Because it is enjoyable to read, and a great balance of fiction and nonfiction, I would give this book a 10 out of 10. I encourage everyone to read Innocent Heroes!

Written by Bronte L., 11


  1. I love reviews written by young readers and this one was awesome. I know I would like this book too.

    1. I think Bronte would be pleased with your comment, Darlene. And I agree that it's wonderful to have young readers share their perspectives on youngCanLit.