Long ago, in Acadie, there lived a young girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine. She lived with Benedict, her farmer father, in the village of Grand Pré, on the shores of the Minas Basin. She loved and was loved in return by Gabriel Lajeunesse, the son of Basil, the village blacksmith. Their marriage contract had been drawn up amid great celebration. Evangeline’s chest was filled with linens and blankets for the new life she and Gabriel would soon make together.
Alas, a great misfortune befell the people of Acadie. English ships sailed into the basin, and English soldiers summoned all the men of the village to the church. There, they were informed that their lands, livestock, and homes had become property of the English crown, and that they would be deported. Some tried to escape from the church to warn their friends and family, others tried to flee into the forest. Still others grew angry and tried to attack the English soldiers. Father Felician, their priest, calmed them, reminding them of God’s commandment to love one another.
Concerned when her father and Gabriel did not return from the meeting at the church, Evangeline went to the churchyard where she found the other women of the village. Together, they waited for and worried about their fathers and husbands, brothers and sons.
The deportations began. The men were lead from the church by English soldiers and forced to climb into rowboats that took them out to the waiting ships. Evangeline stood on the shore with her marriage chest ready to join her father and Gabriel. When her father stepped out of the church, after five long days of captivity, he was a changed man. Gone was the hearty farmer. In his place stood a frail, old man overcome by shock and sorrow.
As Evangeline ran to comfort her father, Gabriel and his father Basil, were taken by force out to the ships anchored in the basin. As night fell, Evangeline and Father Felician tended to her stricken father. Benedict died before morning and was buried in the smouldering ashes of Grand Pré before Evangeline and the priest were removed with the last of the villagers to the ships.
Sadly, the English had given no thought to reuniting men with their wives and mothers, sisters and children. When they weighed anchor, the English ships sailed in different directions, a few for France, and others for various ports along the Eastern seaboard of North America. Some of the deported Acadians settled in Louisiana and other places in what is now the United States, some made the long and difficult journey home to Acadie, some died at sea.
Evangeline was separated from Gabriel. Together with Father Felician, she spent long years looking for her lost beloved. They travelled from place to place, always asking for Gabriel Lajeunesse and his father, Basil. Some said the two had gone west to work as coureurs des bois. Others said they had moved south to Louisiana. Sympathetic, friends counselled Evangeline to give up her search for Gabriel, and to marry another but, she explained, where her heart had gone she must follow. At times, though, she worried that Gabriel no longer lived; at times, she walked the cemeteries searching for his name on a tombstone.
At length, Evangeline and Father Felician followed the Mississippi River south to Louisiana. She awoke one night with a start and told the kindly priest that she felt Gabriel’s presence nearby. The following day, she and the others came to a village settled by deported Acadians. There were many joyful reunions, including with Gabriel’s father Basil, now a herdsman. The former blacksmith told Evangeline that his son had set out only the day before.
Basil and Evangeline followed Gabriel north and then west into the prairies, but at length Gabriel’s trail grew cold. Basil went home to Louisiana, but Evangeline remained in the west, always hopeful that she would find her lost love. She waited through autumn, winter and spring. She travelled to the banks of the Saginaw River, where Gabriel was rumoured to living but all she found was an abandoned hunting lodge.
After years of wandering, Evangeline came at last to the Delaware River where she joined the Sisters of Mercy, and dedicated the rest of her life to good works. A sickness came to the city, and Evangeline tended to the dying. There she found a thin, old man with greying hair and realized that, at last, she had found Gabriel. Taking him in her arms, she whispered, “Gabriel! Oh my beloved!” and pressed a kiss to his lips. Gabriel died in her arms, but Evangeline gave thanks to God for reunited them. Evangeline and Gabriel lie side by side in unmarked graves, far from their childhood home in Acadie, but forever united in love.
Written by Hélène Boudreau and illustrated by Patsy MacKinnon, Evangeline for Young Readers recounts Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem of a young Acadian girl separated from her beloved during the deportations who spends the rest of her life looking for her lost love. This story of hardship, courage and love is a fine tribute to Canada’s Acadians.
It is June 1917, and, for the past year, fifteen-year-old Billy McCracken has been up to no good. Embittered by the behaviour his father, a sailor in the merchant marine, a gambler, and physically abusive toward himself, his mother and sister Sarah, Billy has spent a lot of time with his older friends Tim and John. They have taught him everything they know about card games, loaded dice, marks, and how to cheat at poker. When he is a “found in” during a police raid of a gambling house and brought home by a cop, his mother finds him a summer job working for the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
Billy doesn’t want to leave the port city of Halifax and the opportunities it offers to make money off unsuspecting marks but before he has a chance to turn around, his mother has bundled him onto a train bound for the town of Baddeck in Cape Breton. He spends much of the long trip figuring out how long it will take him to win enough money to get himself home.
Billy walks out from Baddeck to Beinn Breagh, the large property overlooking Lake Bras d’Or owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bell. He gets off to a poor start when he mistakes the inventor for a gardener, and asks him about his batty employer.
The boy is welcomed by his mother’s friend and the Bells’ housekeeper, Mrs. McCauley-Brown. He assigned a room in the staff house, and shown around the property by McGregor, the foreman. Billy sees everything including Sheepville, where Bell pursues his quest to breed a superior sheep, the farm, the lake and the forest, and the kite house, where Bell worked on the development of the Silver Dart, the first plane in the British Commonwealth. He is also allowed to take a quick peek into the boathouse where Bell and a team of engineers are designing a hydrofoil for the Royal Navy. There, he is introduced to Casey Baldwin, the principal engineer and William Stewart, chief carpenter for the project.
On his first night at Beinn Breagh, Billy is asked to serve dinner to the Bells and their guests. When the inventor sends him to his bedroom to fetch cigars, Billy tucks a couple into his pants, figuring he can sell them in town. He is invited to sit next to his employer and watch the Bells and their guests play bridge. What he doesn’t know is that the old man observes him closely as he learns how this new card game works.
On his way back to the staff house, Billy slips into a vine-covered arbour to try out one of his purloined cigars. Hearing the sound of someone approaching, he hides under the bench and listens as two men converse in a language he doesn’t understand. The first words the men utter in English are, “We must not be discovered.” Billy realizes something serious is going on.
The boy spends the week shovelling manure in Sheepville, and earning a reputation for gambling, laziness, and not getting along with the other workers. With his loaded dice, he manages to win money from several of the men before Isaac, the foreman at Sheepville, accuses him of cheating. Billy is saved by Simon, a kindly gardener who lives a couple of doors down from him in the staff house, who suggests to Isaac and the others that the boy has merely had a run of good luck. Afterward, he advises the boy to be a little less vocal in his derisive remarks about “hick towns.”
As soon as he gets his first paycheque, Billy heads into Baddeck determined to find a poker game and make some easy money. He fleeces three locals of enough money that, when he announces that he’s got to get going, they demand a chance to win it back. Billy thinks he’s managed to slip away, by the men follow and accost him on a dark and deserted road. They
demand their money back. Realizing he can’t escape, Billy prepares to hand it over, but the men also want to “take it outta [his] hide”. Fortunately for Billy, Mr. Bell walks out of the trees. He confronts the would-be attackers and so befuddle them with his verbal repartee that the men stagger off.
As they approach Beinn Breaugh, the old man and the boy smell smoke and realize that the boathouse is on fire. Mr. Bell tells Billy to get help and runs into the burning building. Billy runs after him, and finds the inventor trying to throw a lever to send the hydrofoil rolling out of the boathouse, down the marine railway and onto Lake Bras d’Or. Together, they save the prototype from destruction. Mr. Bell has questions about how the fire started, the following day, and, listening, Billy hears words like spontaneous combustion.
Mrs. Bell invites Billy to dinner to thank him for saving her husband’s life but before they sit down to eat, Mr. Bell asks the boy to teach him how to play poker. Out of habit, Billy sits with the window at his back, so that the light from outside will make it harder for his opponent to read his face. They play several hands while Mr. Bell learns the rules and Billy learns to read the old man’s “tells.” By the time his employer suggests a wager, the boy figures he can win a tidy sum of money from him.
At first, things go well for Billy. Slowly but surely, his pile of winnings grow. Then Mr. Bell suggests upping the ante from one to forty-five and then one hundred and fifty-five dollars. To cover this last bet, the inventor agrees to loan Billy money against his earnings for the summer. If Billy wins, he will pocket almost fifteen times his weekly salary of eleven dollars. If he loses, he will work the rest of the summer for free. Billy has a good hand and is so confident that he’s won that he reached over for the money piled on the table between them but Mr. Bell is holding a royal flush.
Billy is still sitting there, utterly shocked, when Mr. Bell confesses that he cheated, with the help of someone standing outside the window with a pair of binoculars and a winning handful of cards he snuck out of his money box. When Billy demands his money back, Mr. Bell asks him, “Are you accusing Alexander Graham Bell of cheating?” It is then that Billy realizes his employer knows all too well about his loaded dice and his card tricks. He realizes, too, that what Mr. Bell has done to him is no different from what he did to the labourers in Sheepville or the men in Baddeck.
Mr. Bell demands to know whether he will keep his commitment to work for the rest of the summer without pay and, numbly, Billy agrees. The old man tells the boy that he wants him to work on the hydrofoil project. Then the inventor does something extraordinary. He counts out one hundred and forty dollars and tells the boy he can take it and leave, go back to Halifax if he wants. He gets up and head in to dinner, leaving Billy to decide. The boy opts to stay on at Beinn Breagh.
He and the rest of the team work long hours, from seven in the morning until late into the evening. Billy fetches sandwiches, paints, and sweeps. He is thrilled when Casey invites him along when he takes the hydrofoil onto the lake for the next test run. Followed by Mr. Bell and Mr. McGregor in the launch, they get the hydrofoil up to thirty-five miles an hour. Suddenly, the world tilts on its side and goes black.
Billy wakes up to discover that there’s been an accident, and he and Casey were thrown from the hydrofoil into the water. Fortunately, the prototype isn’t seriously damaged, and neither Casey nor Billy is badly hurt. More serious is the discovery that it wasn’t an accident; someone sabotaged the vessel. After this second attempt on the hydrofoil, guards are assigned to protect the boathouse.
When Casey and Billy talk later, they agree that despite Mr. Bell’s protestations to the contrary, someone at Beinn Breagh must be working with the enemy. The boy tells the engineer about the conversation he overheard in the arbor on his first night in Baddeck, of the men’s boots, one pair black military issue and the other regular worker’s footgear. They pledge to work together to root out the saboteur.
Just days later, Mr. Bell is summoned to a fire in Sheepville. Billy and Casey go after him before it strikes them that the incident will draw attention away from the boathouse. Racing there instead, they find that the guards are gone and the door to the building is ajar. Billy throws a rock through a window which scares off an intruder, then rushes in to discover that he or she has tried to start a fire under the hydrofoil. He picks up what he thinks it a cigar, and carries it outside where Mr. Bell and his team recognize the object for what it is, a detonating cap. With the inventor, the boy walks into Lake Bras d’Or to neutralize the deadly explosive. The guards are replaced by the military.
The weather turns hot, and Billy has trouble sleeping. He looks out one night, and sees a light flashing on the water. Then he hears someone heading down the stairs and outside. Suspicious, Billy climbs out his window and tries to follow his suspect but loses him in the dark. He heads to the arbor and hides himself under the bench. Within minutes, two men arrive, and carry on a discussion that becomes heated. Finally, one of the men leaps to his feet and says in English, “Why do you want to know where Mr. Bell’s bedroom is located?” Billy recognizes his voice, and listens in growing horror as he realizes that the second man intends to kill the famous inventor. When the employee refuses to divulge the whereabouts of Mr. Bell’s bedroom, the other taunts him, saying that the operation is already underway, and then stabs him to death.
As soon as the enemy agent is gone, Billy races for the house. Encountering Mrs. McCauley-Brown, he tells her of the pending attack and urges her to warn the Bells. He waits in the kitchen for the enemy’s arrival. He is reaching into the fridge for a chicken leg when a man bursts in. The man is dressed in black and carrying a rifle. He demands that Billy tell him where Mr. Bell is.
Billy lies and says the inventor is away, inviting the man to send one of his team to check the bedroom at the top of the stairs. He knows the old man and his wife sleep on the main floor of the house. When they can’t find the inventor, the enemy agent, who has revealed to him that he is the captain of a German U-boat, threatens to kill Billy. Only his young age saves the boy. The Germans leave him tied up and gagged and head back to their vessel.
Mr. and Mrs. Bell call him a hero and want to express their gratitude, but Billy knows there isn’t time. As he rushes the old man to the boathouse, Billy explains that the captain is plans to use his cannon to shell the building. Faced with the certain destruction of the hydrofoil, Mr. Bell puts his life on the line in a dangerous gamble to save it. He opens the boathouse doors and launches the hydrofoil onto Lake Bras d’Or. Knowing that the old man has never actually driven the vessel, Billy ignores the inventor’s orders to get to safety and leaps into the driver’s seat. What follows is a mad dash across the water away from the U-boat’s shells, one that cements for all time the bonds for affection between Alexander Graham Bell and one Billy McCracken, and breaks the world record for speed over water.
Written by Eric Walters, author of wonderful books such as Bully Boys and Camp X, The Hydrofoil Mystery is the WWI-era story of a teenaged boy who has gotten himself mixed up with some youthful card sharks and gets shipped off to Cape Breton to work for the summer for the inventor Alexander Graham Bell. He plans to make enough money to get back to Halifax but finds himself fascinated by the hydrofoil Bell is developing for the Royal Navy, and increasingly alarmed by the efforts of saboteurs to destroy. A thrilling historical adventure that will delight readers from Grade 5.
The weather is cold, and best friends Emily and Matt are stuck inside with nothing to do until Matt suggests it’s time for another trip aboard the Canadian Flyer. They head upstairs to the tower room and, from its hiding place behind a dresser full of strange objects, they pull an old sled that used to belong to Emily’s Great-Aunt Miranda.
Deciding to go on a surprise adventure, Emily closes her eyes and chooses something at random from one of the dresser drawers. It is an old photograph of a young girl and a small spotted dog. Written on the back is a birthday message to Tim from Carolyn and Poppy dated December 6, 1917, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Neither friend can recall any event of historical significance that happened in Halifax in 1917, but, eager for adventure, Emily and Matt hop on the Canadian Flyer and recite the magic words.
Moments later the sled emerges from the clouds, and the kids find themselves flying over a Halifax of ruined buildings and houses, of broken glass and trees, and overhung by smoke. They land at the top of Citadel hill and spy a little black and white dog, a leash dangling from his collar. Recognizing Poppy from the photograph, Matt and Emily coax the dog over, and then set out to find Carolyn.
They meet up with a young soldier in uniform, and discover that his name is Tim. He is looking for his younger sister Carolyn, who left the house to walk Poppy before school but never made it home. From Tim, Matt and Emily learn that much of the city has been destroyed after two ships, one loaded with explosives, collided in the harbour. The young soldier tells the two friends that today is his birthday and pulls the photograph of Carolyn and Poppy from the pocket of his jacket. Concerned about the missing girl, Matt and Emily offer to help Tim find her.
Together they retrace the route the girl takes each morning when she walks Poppy, interviewing shocked survivors of the explosion along the way to learn if they have seen Carolyn. They help to rescue a mother and her son who are trapped in the ruins of their house and transport the young boy to hospital. After they find Carolyn’s bright red hat and scarf amid the destruction, Matt and Emily begin to fear the worst.
Then, from under the fallen branches of an old tree, Matt hears something and Tim finds his sister pinned under the debris. With Matt and Emily’s help, Tim manages to free Carolyn. Thankful that their new friends are safe, the two find their sled and head home to learn more about the Halifax explosion of 1917.
Written by Frieda Wishinsky, in Halifax Explodes friends and time travellers Matt and Emily return to Halifax on December 6, 1917, to witness the city’s devastation following the collision of two ships in the harbour, and help a young soldier find his missing sister. In this most recent book in her Canadian Flyer series, Wishinsky has done a fine job of weaving the most important elements of this important event in Canadian history into a tale that will capture the imagination of young readers.
The summer holidays are about to start, and fourteen-year-old Jonah Morgan has only one thing on his mind. Figuring out how he and his best friend Beasley Hodder are going to give their parents the slip, and go treasure hunting on nearby Oak Island. Rowing out to the island and climbing down into the deep hole known by locals as the money pit to look for the treasure reputed to have been buried there two hundred years earlier by Captain Kidd has become a rite of passage for boys in and around Western Shore, Nova Scotia, even though parents warn of dangerous tides and cave ins.
Jonah is thrilled to learn that Beaz’ mother is going to Halifax to care for his dying grandmother. She won’t be around to wonder where they have gotten to, and he won’t have to worry about what goes on behind the Hodders’ front door. Though his best friend has never said a word about them, Jonah has seen Beaz’ bruises. He will be able to concentrate on keeping the truth about their summer adventures from his mother and father without actually lying to them.
Things begin promisingly enough. The boys find a repaired an old rowboat, and stocked it with shovels, lengths of rope and other supplies. Just as soon as school lets out for the summer, Jonah and Beaz plan to make their first clandestine visit to Oak Island.
But, in his hurry to get down to the shore, Jonah forgets his lunch pail and has to head back to Western Shore’s one-room schoolhouse. Just before he reaches the school, he is waylaid by Marshall Delray, sixteen and the school bully. The older boy hands Jonah a note and orders him to deliver it to their teacher, Mr. Stevens. Though told not to read it, Jonah unfolds the piece of paper and reads, “I know about you and her!” Nervous, he decides to leave the note inside the teacher’s car.
Stepping through the school doors into the cloakroom, Jonah spies his lunch pail. He also hears two voices coming from inside the schoolroom. Leaping behind the curtains, he watches as Mr. Stevens escorts fellow student Charlotte Barkhouse down the schoolhouse steps and into his car. He can’t help by overhear his teacher call Charlotte “dear”. He can’t help but notice that her hair and clothes are in disarray, and wonder what she and Mr. Stevens have been doing together.
Jonah and Beaz make their first excursion to Oak Island early the next morning, both filled with the elation and sense of freedom that comes after a long period of confinement. They locate the money pit and begin their own excavations, but Jonah is taken aback to see his older brother’s name carved into the beam over the shaft. It has been two years since sixteen-year-old Caleb died at the wheel of his rebuilt Buick, two years since Jonah abruptly became the sole focus of his parents’ attention.
Though they dig for hours, the boys find nothing that first day. They row back to the mainland, hide their rowboat, and return to town to learn that a community meeting has been organized to discuss the disappearance of Charlotte Barkhouse. Since Mr. Stevens, the school teacher has abruptly tendered his letter of resignation and left, it is assumed that the young girl has run off with him.
At that meeting, Western Shore’s unofficial mayor wonders if anyone saw the two fraternizing. Jonah says only that he observed Charlotte in the teacher’s car. He fails to mention the state of Charlotte’s clothes, or the note that Marshall Delray handed him. Though he is later interviewed by Deacon Delray, Marshall’s older brother and the local RCMP officer, Jonah sticks to his story. Look over toward Oak Island afterward, he and Beaz spot smoke rising as if someone has started a campfire.
Recalling his late brother’s name carved above the money pit, he sneaks into Caleb’s old bedroom and digs out his notebook. There Jonah discovers that his brother made several excursions over to Oak Island in the summers before his death, sometimes accompanied by Marshall Delray.
After discussing the smoke and agreeing to avoid that part of the island, the boys make a second trip to Oak Island the next day. This time, Beaz lowers Jonah into the pit where he spies a gold heart-shaped locket. The boys are thrilled with their discovery, certain that it is part of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure, but things go awry as they row back to the mainland.
Their rowboat springs a leak and sinks. Worried that the locket will fall from his pocket, Jonah decides to put it into his mouth for safekeeping. Though the water is cold and the current is strong, both boys manage to the swim back to Oak Island but Jonah accidentally swallows the locket.
Fortunately, their worries about getting back to town and without their parents learning of their adventures are solved when Mr. Stevens appears. He explains that, needing time to think, he has been camping on the island since school let out. Jonah takes a cautious look around, but sees and hears nothing to indicate that Charlotte Barkhouse is on the island with their former teacher.
Mr.s Stevens rows the boys back to the mainland, but asks them not to let on where he is. As they draw away from Oak Island, Jonah catches sight of what he thinks is a head with blonde hair. He assumes that it is the missing girl.
Jonah spends the next to days trying to pass the locket. Things seem to have quietened down after the excitement of Charlotte’s disappearance, but the boys cannot help but feel that the tension brewing is more than simply a queasy feeling in Jonah’s rather tortured gut. He finally retrieves the locket but, with their rowboat gone, their long summer of treasure hunting is over almost before it begun.
Jonah and Beaz are out on their bikes when they notice that something has washed up onto the beach behind the schoolhouse, something that has attracted the seagulls. Curious, they join the crowd drawn by the circling gulls and recognize the sweater, skirt and blonde hair of Charlotte Barkhouse.
Even before her body has been removed, the town of Western Shore has identified her killer as the teacher, Mr. Stevens. Though Abraham Morgan, who is a lawyer, cautions residents that the man is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, even his son Jonah is convinced that Mr. Stevens is responsible.
When Marshall Delray tells his brother the RCMP officer in front of the entire town that he knows something, Jonah is forced to admit that he saw them leave the schoolhouse together, but, in an effort to protect himself and his best friend, fails to tell anyone that they saw the suspect out on Oak Island. Instead, he write an anonymous note and mails it to the police.
Information leaks out the Charlotte was strangled to death with a length of thin chain, possibly the one on which she wore a gold, heart-shaped locket. By now, the boys have realized that they are up to their ears in trouble. They know more about Charlotte’s last hours than they have admitted, they know where her accused killer is hiding, and they have part of the murder weapon. Their anxiety is further heightened by the increasingly odd and yet frighteningly accurate ramblings of Sam Cooke, a strange old man whom Jonah has secretly nicknamed the Wharf Prophet. It is possible that the old man knows more than he lets on?
At Charlotte’s funeral, Jonah finds himself standing next to her best friend, Jenny, who, tells him that she hadn’t know about the dead girl’s relationship with their teacher, though she suspected Charlotte was seeing someone. Jenny mentions, in passing, that her friend once had a thing for Marshall Delray.
After the funeral, Jonah bikes out to where Mr. Stevens has left his car, only to find it gone. Deacon Delray arrives soon after him, following up on the anonymous tip Jonah had mailed to the RCMP.
Filled with guilt as his own duplicity, Jonah rows out to Oak Island in the rowboat Mr. Stevens has left behind and finds no trace of the teacher but he does catch another glimpse of that head of blonde hair and discover that it’s only an old mop planted business-end up.
As he walks the island, Jonah cannot help but recall the things he’s seen and heard since that last day of school. Over the next few days, Mr. Stevens is spotted and arrested while eating ice cream in a nearby town, and brought back to Western Shore to face a charge of murder, and, though he is at first reluctant to admit he’s been wrong about his former teacher, and that his inaction has complicated the police investigation into her murder, Jonah begins to suspect he knows what really happened to Charlotte Barkhouse.
Written by Cynthia d’Entremont, Oak Island Revenge tells the intriguing story of a young teenaged boy whose secret plans for a summer of treasure hunting on nearby Oak Island with his best friend are overtaken by the sudden disappearance of a young girl. When her body washes in on the tide, suspicion falls on the local school teacher but the boys, who know where the suspect is hiding, say nothing because they don’t want their parents to learn what they’ve been up to. A gripping and suspenseful reminder for readers in Grades 6 to 8 about leaping to conclusions, and how easy it is to get in way over your head.
Alex Elliot, fourteen, has been sent to spend the summer on Brier Island with her Aunt Sophie. Sophie is taking her around to meet the locals, and trying to act like nothing is wrong. However Alex knows that everything is wrong, and wants to be left numb and alone in her darkened bedroom.
Her adventurous, fun-loving twin brother, Adam, who climbed trees, and cannonballed off the diving board, and teased her for being a wuss is dead. He was going to do a skateboard trick for her, trying to help her over her embarrassment at stepping on his board and falling on her backside, and couldn’t wait for her to get his helmet off. He died of a serious brain injury after weeks of lying in a comma.
Alex wears her brother’s sneakers and keeps a photo of the two of them at their 11th birthday party in her pocket. She is trying to collect perfect memories of him, but constantly runs up against the roadblock of his last weeks, when he lay white and still in a hospital bed.
Alex plays games of what if, and the one she plays most is that of what if she’d been braver and more adventurous, more like her brother. Perhaps, if she’d been more Adam, he wouldn’t have tried that last trick. Instead, she is a watcher, bookish, and very tentative about trying anything that might prove dangerous.
The young girl is also struggling with huge guilt. Since his helmet was still on her head when he suffered his fatal injury, Alex knows, deep down, that she is responsible for Adam’s death. Since they have sent her away to Brier Island, she figures her parents know it too.
Sophie takes Alex to meet Eva, who runs the general store cum café and is writing a cookbook, and Gus, a lobster fisherman, who runs whale-watching tours during the summer months. She decides that the two of them will go whale-watching with Gus, so Alex finds herself on a tour boat along with a couple who complains when the fog comes in and asks if they are going to get their money back.
Alex leans over the railing and stares into the water, and sees a humungous eye looking back at her. The whales have found them! The fog lifts and they spot two whales, whom Gus identifies as Rooftop and her calf. From her post at the rail, Alex watches the whales play, jumping out of the water, quietly thrilled by them. She reaches down to the waves, thinking of her daredevil brother, Adam, and is surprised by something cool and smooth. It is the whale calf stretching up so that she can touch him. She is captivated by the calf, and names him Daredevil.
Invited to go whale watching the next day by Gus, Alex accepts, secretly eager to see Daredevil again, but runs off when Rachel, Gus’ niece, says, “You’re that girl whose brother died.” She longs to get off Brier Island, where everybody knows everybody else’s business, and return to the anonymity of Halifax.
She goes whale watching the following day, but asks Gus is she can sit up top, away from Rachel and her endless talking. However the younger girl follows her up, and drives Alex nearly to distraction. At last whales are spotted, and Rachel’s attention turns to the sea creatures. Hoping that Daredevil might once again swim close enough for her to touch him, Alex hurries to climb down to the deck, loses her footing, and falls.
She awakens in a Halifax hospital, the same one in which her brother died, to find her distraught mother at her side. After a night of observation, she is released from hospital and goes home wondering why her father hasn’t visited her during her hospital stay. When she finally sees her father in becomes clear that her mother has not contacted him to tell him of her accident. While her parents conduct a quiet and bitter argument, Alex realizes that their marriage is in trouble. Already mired in guilt over her brother’s death, she believes that this too is her responsibility.
Aunt Sophie and her mother make plans to return with Alex to Brier Island, and, at her insistence, her father reluctantly agrees to accompany them but the girl observes that her parents rarely speak to and never look at each other. When her father asks her how she would like to spend her first day back on Brier Island, Alex says she’s like to go out whale watching with Gus and Rachel. She is hoping they will spot Daredevil but, though Rooftop treats them to a splendid display of breaching, there is no sign of her calf.
Alex and Rachel make a detour to visit the lighthouse on their way back to Sophie’s house, and, when they reach it, find Alex’ parents in the midst of a heated argument. From it Alex learns that her parents are separating. Sad and angry, she tells them what she has feared ever since her brother’s death; that she is responsible for Adam dying because she was wearing his helmet and didn’t get it off fast enough for him to put it on before trying that last skateboarding trick. Alex runs to the lighthouse, followed by Rachel, and collapses sobbing into the other girl’s arms.
The girl cries until she can’t cry anymore, then Alex and Rachel wander away from the lighthouse. Rachel asks about Adam and, for the first time, Alex finds that she can answer questions about him. The fog suddenly rolls in, and the two girls realize that they are lost. As they try to find the trail, they stray into a bog and are soon up to their calves in water.
When Rachel starts to panic, Alex digs deep and finds within her courage she didn’t know she possessed; enough to lead the younger girl to safety, and then into danger once again when a new and greater challenge presents itself. As she works desperately along side her new friend to avert tragedy, Alex discovers that she isn’t quite the wuss she thought she was. She also learns that sometimes you have to know you’re lost before you can find yourself again.
Written by Jo Ann Yhard, Lost on Brier Island is the absorbing story of a young girl mired in grief and guilt over her twin brother’s accidental death, and trying to cope with her parents’ emotions, who makes a connection with a whale calf that helps her find her way out of the fog. With a strong and nuanced main character in Alex, interesting secondary characters in Aunt Sophie, Eva, Gus and Rachel, a compelling storyline and a clean writing style, Lost on Brier Island is sure to appeal to readers from Grade 5.
Eleven-year-old William McLean lives in the coal mining town of Green Bay, Cape Breton. Though his father Rory MacLean, and his older brother John are pit miners in the Ocean Deeps mine and his family expects that Willie will also become a miner, the young boy shudders at the thought of going deep into mines under the ocean floor.
Willie loves horses and, one afternoon in October 1902, he stands on the wharf watching as wild ponies, scared to death, are unloaded from a ship. Captured from Sable Island, little wild shaggy ponies are going to be set down into the mines to haul coal. That evening Willie ruins his birthday dinner by announcing to his family that he doesn’t want to work in the mines, that he loves horses and would like to work with them.
Every afternoon Willie runs to the abandoned farm where the Sable Island ponies are being kept in a pasture while their injuries heal and they are fitted with bits and bridles. Willie makes friends with a little pony named Gem. He brings her apples and molasses cookies, and soon has her eating from his hand.
One day, when the men have gone home, he climbs onto the fence and leaps onto Gem’s back, startling the pony. She rears into the air, throwing Willie to the ground, then jumps the fence and runs away. Willie knows he could creep home and no one would be the wiser about his involvement in Gem’s disappearance, but instead the boy goes after the little pony. He ends up spending the night in a barn and being awakened by a kind old farmer who feeds him and puts him to work for the day in the turnip patch. Gem ambles up, the farmer helps him make a bridle for her from a length of rope, and the Willie takes her back to her pasture.
When the boy gets home he learns that there has been a mine accident. His father is lying seriously injured in the infirmary and his older brother, John, has broken his leg. With no one working, Willie knows there will be no money and, worse, the mine company will turn his family out of their company cottage and into the streets. He tells Nellie that he will start in the mines the following day.
Willie starts as a trapper, opening and closing the traps that seal off parts of the mine tunnels to regulate air flow. He struggles with the long hours on his own in the dark of the mine tunnels, and the harassment of another trapper, who pulls nasty and dangerous tricks on Willie. At the first opportunity, he finds his way to the mine stables, deep in the mines, to see Gem. When the stableman sees how the little pony responds to the boy, he realizes that the two would work well together. Willie is thrilled at the thought of becoming a driver with Gem as his pit pony, but continues to mourn the thought that the little pony will never see the sun again.
A sudden explosion in the mines throws Willie and Gem into terrible danger. Though other miners urge him to run, Willie is reluctant to abandon the pony. Then he hears a cry of “Help!” and realizes that someone has been trapped by falling rock. As he fights to free the trapper who has plagued him, Willie wonders they will all die in the mine.
Written by Joyce Barkhouse, Pit Pony is a lovely story of friendship between a boy and a little pony set against the harsh and dangerous world of a Cape Breton mining community at the turn of the 20th century. A wonderful book for readers from Grade 4.
A young black woman in Nova Scotia refuses to move to the upper balcony of a New Glasgow movie theatre.
One day in 1946, Viola Desmond, a young Black woman from Halifax and owner of a beauty salon there, got into her car to drive to another town in Nova Scotia. On the way, her car broke down and she found herself in New Glasgow with several hours to spend while a mechanic fixed it.
Noticing the Roseland Theatre, Viola purchased a ticket for the movie and found herself a seat close enough to the screen that she could enjoy it. No sooner had she made herself comfortable than an usher tapped her on the shoulder and informed her that she had purchased a cheap ticket and would have to move to the theatre balcony.
When she replied that she liked her seat and would happily pay for the more expensive seat, Viola discovered that at the Roseland Theatre people of colour were not permitted to sit on the main floor. The young woman is sad and scared, but she is also angry. She reiterates her offer to pay for the more expensive seat and refuses to move from it. Eventually, the manager calls the police who forcibly remove her and put her in the local jail.
The following morning, Viola is taken before a judge and fined twenty dollars for failing to pay the proper ticket price. She pays her fine and returns to Halifax where the local Black community mounts a legal appeal of her fine. The case goes to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court where the judges sidestep the issue of racial segregation and uphold her fine.
However Viola’s stand inspires Black Nova Scotians in their fight for equality. It will take more than a decade but by the late 1950’s racial segregation will be made illegal in Nova Scotia.
Written by Jody Nyasha Warner and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki, Viola Desmond Won’t be Budged! is the true story of one young Black woman’s refusal to move to the back of a Nova Scotia movie theatre, and how her actions galvanized the equal rights movement in that province during the 1940s and 50s. Warner’s powerful prose resonates, especially when read aloud, and are wonderfully illustrated by Rudnicki’s glowing paintings. A must-read for Canadians from age 5.
It is young Savino’s first day of work in the Glace Bay coal mine. Before dawn, and with his lunch can in hand, he sets off with his father and the other miners along the cliffside path toward the mine head, thinking as he walks of the stories he’s heard, some strange and some frightening, about the mine.
As he takes his place in the rake box for the two-mile trip under the ocean, Savino looks forward to seeing Nelson, the little pit pony he helped his father choose two years before. He has brought a carrot for Nelson, and laughs when the pony nudges his pocket for it.
Once the pony is attached to his coal box, his father tells Savino to hold onto the coal box and then turns out their mine lamps. Savino and his father set out through a maze of pitch dark tunnels to where the miners are working the coal face. It seems that Nelson relies on another sense to find his way through the mine.
All morning, Savino works with his father shovelling coal into the pony’s coal box, and following Nelson through the tunnels to the rail car where they unload the coal before returning the the coal face for another load. The boy’s hands blister and his arms ache, but he doesn’t complain.
After lunch, Savino’s father asks to take a box of coal up to the rail car on his own, and though he is scared, he sets off with Nelson. Boy and pony run into a mine cave in. As Savino tries to clear the rubble from the track, his pit lamp goes out. The young boy panics in the sudden darkness until Nelson reassures him and leads him safely back to his father.
At the end of their shift, the last before the mine closes for the annual week-long holiday, Savino’s father and the other miners lead the pit ponies up the two miles of sloping tunnels to the surface to enjoy their own week in the sun.
Written by Anne Laurel Carter and illustrated by Nicolas Debon, Out of the Deeps tells the story of a young boy’s first day working in a Cape Breton coal mine along side his miner father, and celebrates both the men and boys who worked the mines and pit ponies who laboured next to them. A wonderful book for readers from 4 years old.
Tante Marie has lived the whole of her long life in Chéticamp, in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton. There she lives alone in a big house that overlooks the gulf because all of her family has either passed on or moved away, but every year she receives cards and letters from far-flung family members. Though she has no family close by, everyone in Chéticamp calls her Tante Marie, from the small children to the priest and the courting couples, and each time someone celebrates a marriage or the birth of a new child, the old woman sends a gift of a homemade rug hand hooked in the traditional style.
When WWI starts, Tante Marie receives a letter from a great-niece she has never met asking her to take care of a seven-year-old named Claire, so that her mother can work in the fish-packing plant. Claire comes to Chéticamp and Tante Marie, but the young girl misses her mother too much to talk or play, and the old woman is too worried about her to work on her rugs. No invitation to join in children’s games tempts the girl, no conversation rouses her out of her sadness, but when Claire wakes up one night to find Tante Marie rug hooking, she is immediately intrigued. Soon the little girl is working on her own rug, determined to become as proficient as Tante Marie, and as she works, Claire learns to love the old woman and Chéticamp. When summer is over Claire returns home to her mother but she sends a special gift to Tante Marie the following Christmas, the rug she has hooked especially for her.
Written by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Raika Kupesci, Claire’s Gift is a charming and sensitive story about a young girl sent to live in a small Acadian community using WWI and the kind woman who draws her out of her shell by teaching her traditional Acadian rug hooking. A lovely book for children from age 5!
After working as a breaker boy, where he sorted slate from coal, young James is going to go underground to work in the Cape Breton coal mines with his father. The entrance to the mine stands at the edge of the sea, and the mine itself stretches for miles under it. When he first steps into the steel cage that will take them down into the darkness of the deeps, James’ heart beats faster. Down in the mines, James sees the tunnels that lead off in every direction, and breathes in the damp smell of rock and coal.
With the other boys and men, James and his father board a rake that takes them to the stables where the pit ponies wait, eager to begin another day of work carting loads of coal. Together, they get picks and shovels, and then head off to the wall of coal they will work that day. Cautious about gases that he knows can build up in a mine, James is relieved when the flames of their mining lamps burn steadily.
That first day, the boy learns from his father how to bore a hole into the wall, pack it with gunpowder, set the fuse, and then move away while the explosion brings chunks of coal crashing down. He learns to pace himself as he shovels that coal into the cart. James and his father fill cart after cart, each of which is hauled away by the pit ponies. When they stop for lunch, James realizes that his back aches and his hands are blistered. He is so tired that he struggles to eat.
James’ father falls silent, his attention on the sound of the rock over their heads shifting. Suddenly, the floor ripples under them, and the timbers supporting the mine tunnel begin to snap. Father and son are pinned to the ground as the ceiling falls on them. At first his father doesn’t answer when James calls to him, but eventually he responds, reassuring the boy that he’s only had the wind knocked out of him.
The ceiling’s collapse has trapped them so James begins to shout. No one answers. He grabs his shovel and starts to move the blockage, one shovelful at a time. After a time, his father joins him. Then they hear the sound of metal striking rock. They can see a light shining beyond the piled rock and coal. Soon James and his father have crawled through the hole they have dug to the miners who have come to their rescue, and are on their way to the surface and a welcome supper at home.
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace, author of Canadian classics including Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance, The Sleeping Porch, and Duncan’s Way, Boy of the Deeps is the story of a young boy’s first day working in a Cape Breton coal mine along side his father. This stirring tribute to the boys and men of the deeps will strike a chord with Canadian readers from age 5.