Meet Viola Desmond by Elizabeth MacLeod – A Book Review

Meet Viola Desmond Book Cover

Title: Meet Viola Desmond
Author: Elizabeth Macleod
Illustrated by: Mike Deas 
Published in 2018 by Scholastic Canada
Age Range: Picture book (ages 6-10)
Location: Nova Scotia

Book Summary

Meet Viola Desmond, community leader and early civil rights trailblazer!

On the night of November 8th 1946, Nova Scotia businesswoman Viola Desmond stood up for her right to be in the “unofficial” whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre . . . and was arrested for it. Supported by the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSCAACP) and the black-owned newspaper The Clarion, Viola took her quest for the right to freedom from discrimination to the courts. While she ultimately did not succeed, she was a beacon to other early civil-rights activists. Her sister Wanda worked hard to promote Viola’s legacy, which has been finally honoured by Viola’s inclusion on the new Canadian $10 bill.

This new picture book biography series features simple text and full-colour, comic-flavoured illustration with speech balloons that help bring the story alive. Historical photos and a timeline support the narrative.

Thoughts About the Book Meet Viola Desmond

It is very important to teach our children about racism and prejudice. However it can sometimes be a difficult topic to understand. Picture books are a great gateway to many interesting discussions and further study! 

The Story of Viola Desmond is one of racial discrimination in Canadian history. Viola Desmond was a Black woman who wouldn’t give in when faced with injustice in 1946 in Nova Scotia. Faced with a situation where Black people couldn’t sit in the movie theatre except in a segregated section made for them, Viola decided this was unjust and refused to move. She was arrested and later lost her case in court twice. She refused to give up, even when others thought it was just the way it was. She eventually died without seeing the changes she desired, but her younger sister kept Viola’s story going. Finally, in 2010, after her death, Viola received a pardon (not guilty of crime) and an apology was given to Viola and all Black people in the province of Nova Scotia. 

Where might we be today if it weren’t for heroes like Viola Desmond? If no one spoke up for what was right, changes would never be made. 

This Scholastic Canada biography is part of a series of books about Canadians in history. It is written for ages 6-10, but I also read it to my older children, and we all enjoyed it. The book is written with a narrative as well as graphic novel style illustrated sections on each page. This makes the book very engaging for children because they can read or listen to the story while also reading about Viola’s thoughts and emotions shown through the illustrations and speech balloons. Graphic novel style is like a comic book, with illustrations and speech balloons for the people in the story. It’s a very appealing way of writing a story for children and really captures their attention. 

Meet Viola Desmond is a book that tells Viola Desmond’s story, which is an important piece of Canadian history. However the book encourages children to stand up for what is right and persevere for change when facing discrimination. The book also contains a timeline of Viola’s life with a few photographs.

Learn More About Viola Desmond

Love Learning Through Historical Fiction?

Check out our Canadian History Through Living Books List! Over 100 pages of books to choose from… all about Canadian history – picture books, chapter books, to books for high school. Includes books with diverse perspectives and experiences all organized into time periods or historical events. Now available in the store!

Lisa Marie Fletcher
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