A STORY TO TELL
HALIFAX, THE LARGEST CITY OF Nova Scotia, Canada, has a story to tell. Fourteen bells in a memorial tower ring part of the tale. In the city hall clock tower, the locked-in-place hands on the clock that faces north freeze a moment of the story, left as it was on that long-ago day. A museum containing grim reminders and libraries filled with age-old pages share more. The people of Halifax add chapters to the story each time they speak the memories of those who lived--and died--at that time. Old scars are hidden by sturdy stone houses, and tall trees line remade streets. But the roots of the story are still there, and they grow deep.
Located on a small peninsula surrounded by salty water, Halifax is rich with history. People have lived in the area for ten thousand years. "Since time out of mind," the settlementsand campsites of the Mi'kmaq, members of Canada's First Nations people, have dotted the landscape. Generation after generation, men and boys hunted in the evergreen forests; they fished in the lakes and flowing rivers. Women and girls built sturdy birch-bark-covered wigwams and gathered plants for food and medicinal use. They stitched clothing and made baskets decorated with elaborate patterns of interwoven porcupine quills. For hundreds of years, the Mi'kmaq found the rocky shore along Halifax's large, hourglass-shaped harbor a perfect place to live.
In the early 1600s, French explorers reached the shores of Nova Scotia and called the land Acadia. The Mi'kmaq allowed them to establish settlements where fishers dried theircatches before shipping them to Europe. By the 1620s, Scottish settlers had made their way to the land, calling it Nova Scotia, which means "New Scotland" in Latin. For the next century, Great Britain and France played tug-of-war over Nova Scotia. Great Britain was the eventual victor.
In 1749, under the leadership of Edward Cornwallis, ships carrying more than 2,500 British settlers arrived and established a town they named Halifax. It became the capital of Nova Scotia, the leading port city for eastern Canada, and the site of a naval base. The Mi'kmaq, still living on most of their traditional lands, signed peace treaties with the British. In the late 1700s, an earthen fort named Fort Needham was constructed on the top of a 220-foot hill that overlooked the dockyards along the northern end of the city. In 1828, a stone fort called the Citadel was built on an even higher hill nearby. And all around the two hills, people built homes, schools, and businesses. Merchant ships sailed in and out of Halifax Harbour. By the 1860s, trains chugged into the city. Together, the railroad and ships created a transportation network that carried timber and fish and other trade goods to places around the world. And so Halifax grew.
By 1914, the population of Halifax had swelled to over 45,000 people. But it wasn't the only thriving town in the area. Across the harbor, more than 6,500 people, including a small settlement of Mi'kmaq, lived in the city of Dartmouth. There, an oil refinery as well as companies that produced goods such as ice skates, rope, beer, and chocolate providedjobs for the area residents. While many of them knew there was political unrest in Europe--there was even talk of a war--it seemed unlikely that it would affect them, being so far away. During the summer of 1914, however, shattering events in Europe began a deathly trail that eventually found its way to Halifax and Dartmouth.
As countries in Europe began challenging each other for control of territory, they amassed armies th
"The well-designed volume clearly depicts the extent of the devastation in both words and photographs. . . . As usual, this author’s source notes and use of primary sources serves as a model of nonfiction writing." —Shelf Awareness
* "Riveting." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Disasters make for gripping reading, and this account of the huge explosion of a munitions ship and its devastating effects in Halifax Harbor, Canada, in 1917 tells the dramatic history with clear detailed facts." —Booklist
"Halifax does indeed have a story to tell, but Walker once again proves that it’s her consummate gifts as a storyteller that breathe life into the tale." —The Horn Book
"This tragic, but well-told story belongs in most collections." —School Library Journal