Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far.


24 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 978-1-897073-70-4
DDC j325.71






Illustrations by Aries Cheung
Reviewed by Aileen Wortley


This is the second title in the Lobster Press Canadian Immigration Series. It tells the story of Pier 21, an ocean liner terminal and immigration shed in Halifax, the first access point for many immigrants who came to a new country. It was also the gateway through which many Canadians left for Europe on their way to war, many never to return.


We learn about the building itself, its predecessor at Pier 2, and the tragedy of the Halifax explosion which led to the construction of the new immigration annex known as Pier 21. We learn of the work that occurred there: the greeting, the checking, the directing, the reassuring, and the general care of newcomers in multiple languages before they continued on to other parts of Canada. But fascinating as that is, this book is much more. It is, in a sense, the history of major world events that occurred during the years 1928 to 1971 and the impact they had on Canada, as waves of immigrants came to this country for a better life. The influx of British Home Children, the Guest Children of the Second World War, the War Brides, those displaced by the aftermath of the Second World War and the Hungarian Revolution, and escapees from communist rule in Cuba and Czechoslovakia are all part of this story. And while the humanity of the treatment that most immigrants received at Pier 21 is lauded, Renaud does not gloss over situations where Canada made unfair decisions. One of the notable examples was the unjust rejection of many Jewish people arriving on the St. Louis in 1939 and their resultant deaths at the hands of the Nazis.


This book is a wonderful miscellany of information for children and adults to dip into and browse through. What makes the information so enticing is the way it has been presented and the creative manner in which the pages are laid out. Yes, there are substantial areas of authoritative, informational text, but in addition there are literally dozens of sidebars, snippets of information, photographs, personal histories, captions, old photographs, creative footnotes, newspaper clippings, and artifacts often overlaying each other. In perusing these, a reader will learn and absorb as much as they do from the more conventional text, a great asset for children not yet confident in their reading skills. Adding colour to the mainly black and white illustrations are several pieces of attractive watercolour artwork by Aries Cheung.


This is an excellent addition to library collections and an informative and fascinating read for children aged 8 to12. Highly recommended.


Renaud, Anne., “Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29085.