Novel approach to encourage reading

Grant Smith, author and editor of the Norfolk Letters Home series, was at the Norfolk County Public Library on Saturday for the wrap up of One Novel One Norfolk, a program that encourages everyone to read or share a book together. This year's program pick was Norfolk Letters Home 1918 - The Last 100 Days by the Norfolk Remembers Committee. MICHELLE RUBY / Brantford Expositor

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A book that drew the community together was celebrated on Saturday at the Simcoe branch of the Norfolk County Library.

Norfolk Letters Home 1918, The Last 100 Days, the final instalment in a series created by the Norfolk Remembers Committee, was this year’s selection for the One Novel One Norfolk program, which encourages readers to share a book together.

“It was a great honour to the committee, to everybody who worked on it,” Grant Smith, who edited Norfolk Letters Home 1918, said of the book being selected for the collective read.

This is the second year for One Novel One Norfolk. Participants purchased their own copy of Norfolk Letters Home or borrowed one from a library branch, then registered for the program.

Library CEO Heather King said 60 people registered and another 200 copies of the book were purchased.

“It was very successful,” she said.

King said the program gets people to the library, creates a conversation, and expands their knowledge base by picking up a book that might be outside of the genre they usually read.

Visitors to the Simcoe Library on Saturday were encouraged to contribute to the Collage of Courage and the Poppies to Remember project and to make a Valentines for Vets card. There were also refreshments made from rationing cookbook recipes.

Smith, who was born in Simcoe and grew up in Delhi, said some people were sharing their personal stories of the First World War on Saturday at the One Novel One Norfolk wrap-up.

“It’s just great to listen to,” he said.

The First World War series of books began with Smith’s 410-page hardcover book, Norfolk Remembers the Great War, 1914-1918, dedicated to the men and women who served in the Armed Forces of the British Commonwealth, which details the story of 250 from Norfolk who were killed in the First World War.

It took years for Smith to compile the research. The book was published through funding from Norfolk Lions clubs and proceeds from its sale funded the publication of a series, including Letters Home, the Beginning 1914-15; Letters Home, 133rd Norfolk Battalion 1916; Letters Home, Norfolk at Vimy, April 9, 1917; Letters Home, Norfolk at Passchendaele; A County of Ontario in the Boer War, 1899-1902; and Norfolk Letters Home, 1918, The Last 100 Days.

“We launched the books at the times of the battles to bring attention to them,” said King, who chairs the Norfolk Remembers Committee.

All the letters books included soldiers’ letters home or letters published in local newspapers.

“Some of them were absolutely beautiful writers,” said Smith.

By 1918, Smith said, “men were dragging themselves forward.”

“They had been in a hell hole for three years and they somehow dragged themselves up and started smiling.”

On Saturday, Feb. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon, an information session will be held at the Simcoe library about plans to create a book about Norfolk residents who died in the Second World War.

“We are recruiting writers,” said King. “We want this to be a community writing project.”

For more information on the project, contact King at 519-426-3506, ext. 1253.

Brantford Expositor

mruby@postmedia.com

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