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Children's Nonfiction Patriotic Holidays

Highway of Heroes

by (author) Kathy Stinson

Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Initial publish date
Sep 2010
Patriotic Holidays
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12


A young boy has lost his father, a soldier killed in action overseas. He and his mother travel the stretch of Highway 401 between Trenton and Toronto, called the Highway of Heroes, marking the route of fallen soldiers who return to Canada. This photographic picture book pays tribute to the sacrifices of those Canadian men and women in our armed forces and their families, while highlighting the remarkable patriotism of Canadian citizens who honour them.

About the author

Kathy Stinson is a familiar name in children’s literature. She wrote the award-winning Red is Best and Big or Little?—two of the first picture books for preschoolers in Canada. Both were a huge success and have since achieved international acclaim. Red is Best 25th Anniversary Edition was released in 2006 a newly illustrated Big or Little? was published in 2009. Kathy’s latest book, The Man with the Violin (2013), was greeted with rave reviews, including starred reviews in Kirkus and uill & uire. Illustrated by Duan Petricic, this beautifully evocative picture book tells the true story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who conducted an experiment by anonymously playing his priceless violin in the Washington D.C. subway station. Kathy grew up in Toronto. “My love affair with books began as a child,” she says. “I remember regular visits to the library, getting stacks of books to read.” She still has a notebook of stories that she wrote when she was in grade four. She believes that reading a lot is the key to becoming a good writer. In the early 1970s Kathy attended university while teaching elementary school. In 1981, she took a course called “How to write and get published.” The titles she has published in the years since range from picture books to young adult novels, from historical fiction chapter books to short stories in the horror genre. 2008 sees the publication of her first brand-new picture book in sixteen years! Kathy enjoys visiting schools across Canada, and especially talking with fellow writers. In 1987 she traveled to England as part of an exchange of Canadian and British children’s authors. She has helped students across Canada pursue their own creative projects through the Writers in Electronic Residence program, and in many communities has conducted writing workshops for children and for adults. When she’s not busy writing or reading, Kathy is a self-proclaimed jigsaw puzzle addict. Her children now grown, she lives with her partner, editor Peter Carver, in a hamlet not far from Guelph, Ontario.

Kathy Stinson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The highly charged emotional nature of this topic makes it challenging to present in a sensitive and effective way. The choice of two approaches in this book - a personal perspective, and a more objective, factual one - help to balance the grief and loss that underlies the topic. It works. For young readers, the book will answer many questions about the patriotic scenes they are witnessing in the media. It will also help them understand the immediacy and impact of the current war. These well chosen words and images bring it so much closer than the historical view of Canadian combat involvement that is all recent generations have known since the Korean War."
Highly Recommended
CM Magazine

Librarian Reviews

Highway of Heroes

“So, how did it happen that whenever a fallen soldier returns home to Canada, thousands of people line fifty bridges over the busiest highway in North America?”

Well-known author Kathy Stinson answers that question in a moving and informative picture book that explains how a grassroots movement became a living national memorial. She has really created two books in one. The first half of the book is a story, “One Family’s Journey”. It is a fictionalized account of a boy and his mother making the slow journey from CFB Trenton to the Chief Coroner’s Office in Toronto with the body of his father, a soldier killed in Afghanistan. As the journey begins, the boy dreads the long ride and wishes they could drive faster. Then, as they approach a highway overpass, he sees people standing, waving flags and saluting. At each overpass there are more people and the boy begins to take comfort in the crowds. They are there because of his dad, a man they did not know, but a man who is a hero. As the journey ends in Toronto, the boy feels proud of his father and proud to be Canadian.

The boy travelled on the Highway of Heroes, a 172 km stretch of Highway 401, so named by Joe Warmington, writing in The Toronto Sun. The second half of the book tells how the overpasses on the highway became gathering places for people in communities along the route to show their respect and support for the soldiers and their families. This section of the highway was officially renamed “Highway of Heroes” in 2007; the route through the city to the coroner’s office was named the “Route of Heroes” in 2010. Stinson also gives a brief outline of the conflict in Afghanistan and how Canadians are helping to rebuild the country. She steers clear of politics and focuses on the sacrifice of the soldiers, journalists and civilians who have been caught up in this war.

The book is full of colour photos — cars and people along the route, people with flags, ordinary Canadians paying their respects. Stinson’s book is a powerful testimony to this shared ritual. The little boy’s story is told with great emotion (and brought tears to my eyes), but the book is never maudlin or jingoistic. Stinson takes a calm, factual and respectful tone with the material and the result is a simple yet powerful statement about the reality of war and our response to it.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.

Highway of Heroes

In this fictional account of a trip down the Highway of Heroes, a boy and his mother are moved by the show of support from Canadians lining the streets and waiting on the bridges over the highway during his father’s repatriation ceremony. Full-colour photos and powerful quotations are included in a non-fiction section that tells the story behind the Highway of Heroes — one of Canada’s greatest expressions of pride and patriotism.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Kathy Stinson