The Sailor and the Christmas Trees

18 December 2012

The Sailor and the Christmas Trees: A True Story
by Deana Driver
Illustrated by Catherine Folnovic
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Keith Foster
$14.95 ISBN 978-192757002-9

Although a prolific writer with five books and more than 2,000 articles in Canadian newspapers and magazines to her credit, this is Deana Driver’s first children’s book. It is a true story, told in simple language a child can easily understand.

The story revolves around John Hanlon, a wireless operator in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. His ship, HMCS (His Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Royalmount, was protecting convoys bringing supplies to Britain.

Knowing that on the return trip he would be at sea on Christmas Day, Hanlon and three other sailors cut down a few evergreen trees to decorate their frigate. When they found out that another ship was carrying children to safety in Canada, they got close enough to shoot a line across it. One of the trees was then pulled over.

“Those children’s eyes were so big as they watched that tree bobbing along the line from our ship to theirs,” Hanlon recalled. “Those children started cheering.”

Fifty years later, at a reunion in Calgary, Hanlon met a woman who had been one of the girls on the ship.

Regina-born illustrator Catherine Folnovic provides illustrations for the story. Also included are nine black and white photos of Hanlon and his ship.

Driver not only relates an interesting story, but her book is also an educational tool. She uses notations in the text, leading to a glossary which explains the terms used. Children of an age to appreciate this book may not realize there were other ways to communicate before cellphones.

After relating John Hanlon’s story, Driver tells how the book came to be written. Six days after he told his story to Driver, Hanlon passed away. Fortunately for us, his story is now recorded for posterity.


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