Seasons Before the War
Named to the 2018 BMO Winterset Award long list
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a world where the First World War was history and the Second World War unimaginable - in a world before drones or space ships, before we had split the atom or invented plastic, before computers or video games even before television - even the, children played in the hilly streets and empty fields of St. John's.
Originally commissioned by the internationally renowned Shallaway Youth Choir of Newfoundland and Labrador for a Christmas concert, Bernice Morgan’s Seasons Before the War is a delightful, unsentimental remembrance of growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland just before the city, and the world, changed irrevocably with the advent of WWII. This slightly fictionalized telling explores the delights of every day and of each season: how Bernice and her siblings played and passed their time—watching the fire trucks put out fires at the local dump, going for messages at nearby shops, listening to stories by the kitchen stove—and the bigger moments of starting school, and anticipating Christmas. Charged with the bright wonder of a child’s view, the book nevertheless contains the shadow of change; war and its implications for childhood are in the offing.
Artwork by acclaimed UK-based illustrator Brita Granström beautifully captures the sweet nostalgia of Morgan’s words and the joys of childhood. Soft and playful, yet detailed and accurate, the illustrations add immeasurably to the book, making it as much an art book as a storybook. With beautiful paper, thoughtful design, and exceptional production values, this is a book to be shared between generations.
What folks are saying
"Bernice Morgan’s Seasons Before the War captures a St. John’s full of horse-drawn carts; wild, empty fields commandeered by neighbourhood children; independent aunts who wore lipstick and knew all the radio songs; go-carts; and glass alleys—a rich world of childhood treasures. Brita Granström’s bold and elegant illustrations and Bernice Morgan’s elegiac, vivid prose catapult us through time: we are there! Here is an older St. John’s, tangible and present. This is a gorgeous book."
– Lisa Moore, author of Flannery, February, and Caught
"Bernice Morgan’s wonderfully evocative prose, delightful in its detail, and Brita Granström’s marvelous illustrations are an inspired combination, making Seasons Before the War a book sure to be reread and treasured."
– Kevin Major, author of Hold Fast, The House of Wooden Santas, and No Man’s Land
"... a potential delight for the old at heart."
Kirkus Reviews (read the full review)
"A gorgeous layout and design accompanies Morgan’s compelling words. Brita Granström’s artwork suits the tale, realistic yet whimsical, lively and lovely on the thick, textured pages."
– Joan Sullivan, The Telegram (read the full review)