CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 16 . . . .April 14, 2006
The world has turned upside down for Millie MacCallum, a young girl of middle class background who lives in Toronto just before and during World War I. In the first book, The Button Necklace, she exasperates her mother who expects Millie to act "like a lady." War has broken out in Europe, and Millie's father enlists to help out the British side, but he assures his daughter that the war will be over soon. In Book 2, Millie spends the summer with First Nations relatives in the Kawartha lakes region in Ontario where she thrives.
Now back in the city, life is a struggle for everyone. Finances are tight. Millie's mother must hold a job as well as care for Millie and Millie’s baby sister, Louisa May. Mother becomes sick just before Christmas and is bedridden with a dangerous virus, and the servants have now gone off to war. A cook remains, but she must also care for her own aged mother, and so Millie is on her own for much of the time.
Millie goes with the mother of her school friend, Edwina Sinclair, to find information about why people of Ukrainian and other Austrian-Hungarian heritage are being imprisoned and sent to work camps. Mrs. Sinclair is a crusading journalist who is incensed that ordinary working people who were enticed to come to Canada are now being branded as enemies because of their country of origin. A man slips Millie a note with strange looking letters and asks her to deliver it to his family.
From then on, it's a race against time for Millie who comes home to find her aboriginal relations from up north on the doorstep. When she next opens the door, in walks Molly, a poor British waif Molly met in Book One in the part of town called The Ward. Molly's foster family arrangement has fallen apart, and she needs a place to stay. As the house fills up, Molly feeds them all and cares for her sister and sick mother. She delivers the letter, only to find the Petrenko family in need of food and friends. Added to that are Millie's own hopes that everything will be the same as it always has at Christmas time.
So much happens in the space of 90 pages that the reader is left wondering how Millie can get some sleep, never mind cope with the demands placed on her.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.