________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


A Song for Acadia.

Mary Alice Downie and George Rawlyk. Illustrated by Ron Berg.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 1980/2004.
62 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 1-55109-474-6.

Subject Heading:
Acadians-Expulsion, 1755-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Lisa Doucet.




Timothy stared into the fire. He was in Acadia at last but what was he to do now? He almost wished he could be back on The Reliant with Ebenezer. At least he'd had something to do there. Aunt Madeleine glanced at him, put away her broom and picked up her shawl.

"Dark thoughts, Timothy?" she said. "Come outside, let's look at the orchard." She led him along the pathway up to the grove behind the house.

The apple trees were planted in close rows, protected from the frosts of spring and the winds of autumn by a wide belt of willows. In the shade of a little arbour, wreathed in wild flowers, Aunt Madeleine sat him down and began to talk slowly in French with halting bits of English. She talked to Timothy of his mother, of the days long ago when his parents had met, of Acadia and its ways, of Martin and how they would be friends.

Aunt Madeleine reminded Timothy of his mother. She had the same flyaway brown hair and freckled face, the same brisk walk, and the same bursts of delighted laughter over such small things as an early mayflower or a brown egg still warm from the nest of a roving hen. She had the same quick anger too, he was to discover, like a flash of summer lightning.

Timothy enjoyed that morning in Acadia: the drowsy duet of bees humming and doves cooing, the faraway cries of sea birds and the sharp complaint of a goat. Apple blossoms drifted down to carpet the grass; willows shivered in the soft wind.

The church bell tolled, its deep tones ringing through the peaceful sounds of the valley. Aunt Madeleine brushed the pink blossoms from her hair and skirt and returned to the house. Timothy followed.


As this story begins, Timothy Parsons is caught taking part in a foolish dare. The night watchman who catches him warns him not to get involved with that particular group of troublemakers. But that will no longer be a concern for young Timothy, for it has been determined that he will leave his home in Boston to go stay with relatives in Acadia while his father is being nurtured back to good health. When Timothy first arrives in Minas, he feels awkward and unsure of himself; things are very different in this rural and close-knit community. Soon, however, he starts to feel very much at home there as his cousin Martin shows him the ropes and he begins to grow accustomed to the ways of the Acadians, his mother's people. While the work is hard and the days are long, there is also great merriment and liveliness to brighten their days, and Timothy's lovely voice and lively tunes readily endear him to his new neighbours. He also takes great pride in his achievements as he learns to do his share of the chores on the farm and he helps build the dykes that hold back the sea at high tides.

internal art     But over their peaceful, idyllic existence hovers a dark shadow. For many long years, the Acadian people had been warned that they would one day be forced to take sides in the ongoing hostilities between the English and the French. While this often created problems for them in the past, they had always believed that they would simply continue to maintain their neutrality. Unfortunately, the English had other ideas, and, when the Acadians still refuse to pledge their allegiance to the English king, they make a final, terrible decree: every man, woman and child will be deported from their home! Timothy tries to convince his aunt and cousin to return with him to Boston where they will be safe, but Martin tells him that "we Acadians have decided that it shall be one and all. Each person will share in our people's fate. If any one of us is removed, not one will remain. Whatever trials await us, we choose not to be divided." Thus it falls to Timothy to decide for himself what his own future will hold.

     Originally published in 1980 as A Proper Acadian, this book was reissued in 2004 in anticipation of the Congrès Mondial Acadien in Nova Scotia. Aimed at a younger reading audience, the book provides an overview of the tragic events surrounding the deportation of the peace-loving Acadians from their homes in and around Grand Pr‚ as it tells the fictional story of a boy who discovers his own Acadian roots so long ago. While it provides a fairly simplified version of events, what this book does accomplish is to create a vivid sense of the Acadian people: their lifestyle, their strong sense of community, their perseverance and their pride. As a portrait of a particular group of people at that time and place, this book is effective. Young readers will be proud of Timothy as he embraces his Acadian heritage and discovers in himself a strength that he hadn't known he possessed. Though the dialogue does not always ring true, the targeted audience of younger readers will be more so caught up in the movement of the plot towards its inevitable conclusion.


Lisa Doucet is children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.