USEREVIEW 073 (Capsule): The Good Fight
Ted Staunton (Writer), Josh Rosen (Illustrator)
The Good Fight (Scholastic Canada, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-44316-383-5 | 224 pp | $16.95 CAD — BUY Here
I’m glad this book exists. Staunton and Rosen do a good job of shedding light on a shameful chapter of Toronto’s history, when pro-Hitler fascists openly roamed the city’s streets. In 1933, hundreds of members of The Balmy Beach Swastika Club painted Nazi symbols on their clothing, carried placards with anti-Semitic slogans, flashed Nazi salutes and shouted ‘Heil Hitler.’ Gift shops on Queen Street sold Nazi souvenirs and claimed they were good luck symbols — which the swastika was, until Hitler appropriated it for his own evil ends. This anti-Semitic pressure cooker culminated in a six-hour riot at Christie Pits Park: this book’s titular ‘good fight.’
Staunton does a good job of making it clear that the ‘good fight’ is also the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism and fascism in all its forms. In such a highly charged environment, though, the quieter story of the main character, a boy named Sid, gets basically overshadowed. Sid finds himself being pulled between working for a gang and the police, forcing him into a moral quandary.
Nazis, gangs, cops — this should be fast-paced and gripping but the story unfolds at a leisurely pace that blunts some of the impact. The artwork as well is a little stiff. At times I found it hard to distinguish between the characters, especially some of the adults. I gave this book to my 10-year-old but she got bored and never finished it. As I said, I am glad this book exists: this is a period of history that must be remembered so it can never be repeated.
The climax of the book is the baseball game on August 16, 1933, which led to the infamous anti-Semitic Christie Pits Riot. Staunton and Rosen really shine here. The whole book is a pressure cooker and here the lid blows off.