Imagine Halifax on December 6, 1917 — a time before smart phones, computers, television and radios. Imagine the city devastated by the biggest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons.
People are combing the city, desperate to find their loved ones in one of the many make-shift hospitals. Where would they turn for news?
“Newspapers were immensely important during the explosion,” says Jacqueline Halsey, author of a new children’s book called Explosion Newsie. “They published lists every day of which hospitals people were in. It was the only way people would know where their injured relatives were.”
Halsey’s story follows nine-year-old Macky, a fun-loving but easily distracted young boy who discovers he has a vital role to play in the days after the explosion, despite being dubbed the “worst newsboy ever”.
After the success of Halsey’s book Bluenose Adventure, a true-to-life tale of a young boy aboard the famous schooner in 1921, Formac Publishing approached her for another story about child workers.
“I had just been reading about newspaper reporters as first responders to accidents and disasters,” Halsey recalls. “It made me wonder about reporters during the Halifax explosion.” From there, her mind turned to the role of newsboys.
As the story developed, the search began for the perfect illustrator for the book. Halsey was a fan of the work of local artist Loretta Migani (whose show “Time-In” at The Craig Gallery was profiled here). Halsey was nervous to ask whether she’d be open to illustrating Explosion Newsie, but was delighted by Migani’s response: “I’d never illustrated a book before, but I fell in love with the story. I decided I’d take on the challenge.”
Migani spent many hours researching and incorporating historic details, right down to including accurate headlines on the Halifax Herald papers Macky delivers.
The result is an entertaining, moving and important book that illustrates that we all have the power to be helpers in the face of tragedy.
Explosion Newsie will be launched on Saturday, November 28th at 2:30 at Evergreen House – Dartmouth Heritage Museum, 26 Newcastle Street, Dartmouth.
It’s an all-ages family event including dramatic reading, book signing, original art work display, homemade cookies and a dress-up box of period costumes. (Lots of selfies!)