A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson

cover101839-mediumA Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson is a fascinating glimpse into the actual sketchbook/diary of a soldier who served in World War I. It follows Russell Rabjohn from 1916 to 1919 during his time in World War I.  Russell was a trained artist, so his superiors directed him to make technical drawings and maps. Constantly having pen and paper available enabled Russell to freely sketch his experiences on the frontlines. The drawings are a unique peek into the past.

The selected diary entries are interspersed with clearly marked context. The black-and-white pencil drawings are impressive and the sketches that show the horrors of war are respectfully rendered. What impacted me most in the beginning was the innocence of the young man from Toronto going out into the world for the first time. It’s noted that there were visual changes in Rabjohn’s handwriting when he arrives in France and the reality of war sunk in. It was interesting to learn the practical concerns soldiers had to deal with, such as really sticky mud. I was impressed by Rabjohn’s empathy towards the prisoners-of-war.

I appreciated this chance to get to know a little more about World War I from the life of a Canadian soldier. It was a pleasure to get to know Private Rabjohn! I am grateful to him for his commitment to documentation. Historian and author John Wilson did a great job providing context and compiling the information into an engaging and beautifully formatted book. This book can be appreciated by older children and adults.

I received this advanced readers copy from Penguin Random House Canada and Tundra Books via NetGalley

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