________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 15 . . . .April 1, 2005


When Lightning Strikes. (Crossings of Promise).

Hugh Alan Smith.
Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 2001.
180 pp., pbk., $19.29.
ISBN 0-8361-9164-1.

Subject Heading:
Hutterite Brethren-History-Fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Shelly Tyler.

*** /4



When Lightning Strikes is part one of the series "Crossings of Promise," a story of a young boy set in 1874, a time when the Hutterite people were leaving Russia for America. Full of dreams and ambition, Paul, 12, prays for something to happen so his family can go with the others to America. Unfortunately, his prayers are answered when his parents are killed and he is swept up into the Hutterite colony headed across the ocean. Paul is torn by his feelings of guilt over his parents' untimely deaths and his dreams of starting life in a land of promise. The relationship between Paul and his new family is a strained one. His aunt feels resentment towards her new charge and does everything she can to force Paul to follow the ways of their religion. Luckily, Paul makes a close friend in the form of a young colony girl, Hannah, who, herself, has lost a parent. Hannah and Paul are embroiled in adventure along their path to America.

She laughed quietly, grabbing my wrists. I'd have wrestled her down, just for fun, except that if Graybeard noticed-or worse yet, Sannah, there would be trouble for sure. Wrestling with a girl was not proper at all. Then it hit me, like a punch in the gut. I would miss Hannah when I left.

     The journey takes the Hutterite colony members from horse drawn cart, to ship, to trains, and all the while Paul is trying to find a way to escape his life with them. Along the way Paul meets a cast of characters, from a con artist-juggler to Wild Bill Hickok himself!

The man's clothes looked expensive. He had a long coat, and his blond hair hung long and wavy under a black hat with a wide round brim. His drooping mustache and confident stance made him look dashing and handsome."Now that," I murmured quietly, "is a man to admire."

"Do you know who he is?" Florian asked.

"No, who?"

"The most famous gunfighter alive—Wild Bill Hickok."

     This story is a great read. It is descriptive, fast-moving and informative. There is a detailed glossary of Hutterite German included at the back, but the author does an excellent job of combining the translations with his text throughout the book. The character outlines are clear and interesting. I would recommend this book to middle school readers as the content may be hard for younger children to understand in certain areas. There is a definite line of religion running throughout the story. This is historical fiction with a touch of romance, and I look forward to reading the second part of the series.


Shelly Tyler is a Reference Librarian with the Manitoba Department of Education Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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