Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 16
- Grade: 11
Feisty icon; passionate Canadian; unrelenting foe of all pretension; energetic provocateur-at-large and most importantly, superb and dedicated writer, there cannot be a Canadian alive who is unaware of the legacy that is Farley Mowat. And No Bird Sang and A Whale for the Killing are the first books in a new Douglas & McIntyre library of handsomely redesigned paperback editions of Farley Mowat's work.
Turned away from the Royal Canadian Air Force for his apparent youth and frailty, Farley Mowat joined the infantry in 1940. The young second lieutenant soon earned the trust of the soldiers under his command, and was known to bend army rules to secure a stout drink, or find warm -- if non-regulation -- clothing. But when Mowat and his regiment engaged with elite German forces in the mountains of Sicily, the optimism of their early days as soldiers was replaced by despair. With a naturalist's eyes and ears, Mowat takes in the full dark depths of war -- and his moving account of military service, and the friends he left behind, is also a plea for peace. It is one of the most searing and unforgettable World War II memoirs from any Canadian.
About the author
Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1921. He began writing upon his return from serving in World War II, and has since written 44 books. He spent much of his youth in Saskatoon, and has lived in Ontario, Cape Breton and Newfoundland, while travelling frequently to Canada's far north. Throughout, Mowat has remained a determined environmentalist, despairing at the ceaseless work of human cruelty. Yet his ability to capture the tragic comedy of human life on earth has made him a national treasure in Canada, and a beloved storyteller to readers around the world. His internationally celebrated books include People of the Deer, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, Sea of Slaughter, and The Boat Who Wouldn't Float.
"Mowat's books have...defined the Canadian wilderness for readers all over the world -- the landscape, the isolation, the weather, animal and native life -- with a heightened sense of reality no other writer has achieved over the last six decades."
"I admit, sheepishly, that I have never read any of Farley Mowat's novels. Until last week, that is, when I gobbled up two of his books, republished by Douglas & McIntyre: A Whale for the Killing and And No Birds Sang...I now understand the regard for Mowat's superb story-telling and dramatic prose...Luckily D&M has rescued Mowat's library...and we can newly appreciate him. Or introduce him to our children."
"An act of courage and ineffably moving."
The Boston Globe
"Douglas & McIntyre have reissued 13 of Mowat's 'most cherished titles' in paperback, including And No Birds Sang, a book that clearly shows why Mowat is such an outstanding writer. His descriptions of the Italian countryside, combatants, battles and local civilians caught up in the maelstrom of war are highly evocative and create an instant and vivid image of his experiences in the reader’s mind."
"Grim, moving, eloquent. Reads lik a novel and fixes images in the mind like a movie -- a cross between The Red Badge of Courage and Apocalypse Now."
"One of the very few books on World War II that can stand with the rich literature of World War I."
The Washington Post Book World
"Superb...Comes stunningly close to describing the indescribably horror and terror of war."
The New Yorker
"And No Birds Sang remains the devastating memoir, the brilliant soldier's reflection of war that this country has produced. Haunting. Maddening. Frightening. At times, even hilarious. There aren't enough adjectives, or enough space on a book jacket, for me to praise Farley Mowat enough."
Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road
"In battle scenes of searing immediacy and resonating insights, [Mowat] conveys the immense toll war wages on men's psyches as they are thrown into suicidal situations by a sacrificial high command...powerful."
"Mowat's finest work."
"A seemingly effortless evocation of the fire that shaped a Canadian generation...bound to rank as one of Mowat's major accomplishments."
And No Birds SangMowat’s classic war memoir plunges the reader into his candid, tragic and heart-wrenching experiences as a teenage soldier, Lieutenant, Battalion Intelligence Officer and eventually Captain, during WWII. Spurred on by his father’s unconcealed excitement about the imminent world war, Mowat tried enlisting in the Air Force, but was told “the Air Force don’t need no peach faced kids.” Instead he joined the infantry, eventually leading his troop in the Sicilian/Italian campaign. A gifted writer, Mowat eloquently infuses humour and simple joys amongst the horrors of war. From Operation Husky in Southern Sicily, to the end of the Italian campaign on the bloody banks of the Moro River, Mowat, aka ‘Squib’, engrosses readers in his gripping firsthand accounts of war, friendship, the agony of defeat and bittersweet victories.
Caution: Some foul language and graphic war descriptions are included.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2012-2013.