Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

A Blinding Light

Lawson, Julie (Author)
Nimbus 2017. 264 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9781771085410 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, dialogue, setting

Award

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People – Finalist – 2018

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Spanning the days leading up to, during and immediately after the Halifax explosion of 1917, this immersive novel explores social divisions, community bonds, survival and resilience in the face of tragedy.

Filled with rich historical details and well-drawn characters, the story is told from the alternating third-person perspectives of two siblings: 15-year-old Will and 12-year-old Livy. Six months earlier, their German-born father disappeared at sea. With the Great War raging overseas, their father’s disappearance sparks rumours of sabotage. "[Rumours] aroused suspicion. Made you unwary. Made you think, if only for a minute, that the impossible could in fact be true," Will muses.

Will hopes to make his father proud by one day becoming the captain of a ship. For the time being, he settles for writing about the vessels coming and going in the harbour for his school newspaper. Livy, meanwhile, finds herself longing for her father’s support when she doesn’t feel accepted by her mother. “Unless it was to scold or criticize, Mum took no notice of Livy whatsoever.”

On the fateful morning of December 6, 1917, a lie unexpectedly puts Livy in the impoverished North End of town when the tragedy strikes; Will witnesses the explosion from atop Citadel Hill. In the ensuing chaos and its aftermath, Livy forges bonds with people she once took for granted and sees a new side of her wounded mother. Meanwhile, Will must separate rumours from truth to stand up for what he believes in.

  •  

    From the back cover, we know that there will be an explosion, devastation and death. Discuss the impact of this awareness on you as a reader.

  •  

    At the start of each chapter is a clock. Write about the role of this clock and how it affects your reading of the story.

  •  

    Write about connections you can make between this book and another text or video you have seen. How are they similar and different?

  •  

    Many people are looking for causes of the explosion and respond with racist ideas. Why do some people attribute blame based on prejudice?

  •  

    This story is about tremendous loss but also about new life. Write a journal entry, from Livy’s point of view, about the positive changes that resulted from the accident.

  •  

    Review what you know about life in Canada during World War I. In small groups, share what you know about the Halifax explosion and do additional research if necessary.

  •  

    Consider how anti-German sentiment affected Livy and her family. What other types of prejudice surfaced in the story? Discuss how these and other forms of discrimination continue today.

  •  

    In times of tragedy, people are sometimes forced to work together and put aside their differences. In your reader-writer's notebook, reflect on how Livy changed throughout the story, noting some positive outcomes despite the catastrophic losses. 

  •  

    Create a class mural of the setting: Halifax c. 1917. Label the bodies of water as well as the important landmarks including but not limited to Citadel Hill, the South End, the North End, Pier 6 and Richmond.

  •  

    As you read, in small teams, prepare a skit of a key scene to show your understanding.

  •  

    Many people are looking for causes of the explosion and respond with racist ideas. Why do some people attribute blame based on race?

  •  

    Halifax and Boston still share a special bond. In pairs, research other sister cities in Québec, in Canada or even around the world. Why are they twinned together? What do they do for each other? Share information in a kiosk-style presentation as if you were representing each city.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences