________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 9 . . . . January 6, 2006


Nettie's Journey. (From Many Peoples).

Adele Dueck.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2005.
209 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55050-322-7.

Subject Headings:
Mennonites-Ukraine-Juvenile fiction.
World War, 1914-1918-Ukraine-Juvenile fiction.
Soviet Union-History-Revolution, 1917-1921-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4


Gruenfeld, Ukraine, August 30, 1916. Liese and Peter's wedding day. Liese gave me a book to write in.

Nettie lay on the bed and watched her sister braid her wavy golden hair.

“Why is the wedding at Peter's place?” she asked twirling one of her long dark braids. “I want the wedding in our house.”

Liese smiled. “Our house is too small, and so is the barn,” she said. “There wouldn't be room for all the people.”

“Is today your wedding day?” Liese only nodded. “Then what was yesterday? You wore a new dress and the barn was full of people and we ate ham and moos.”

“That was the pltaovent,” said Liese. “The wedding is today. This afternoon. Soon. Any my hair is not going to the way it's supposed to.” She smoothed the sides again and looked at herself critically in the mirror.


This historical fiction adventure begins with a prologue. Lisa is making buns with her grandmother, Nettie. Lisa questions her grandmother about her life in Russia as a young girl. Nettie then tells the story of her family from 1916 until 1923. When Nettie was seven, her sister, Liese, gave her a book to write in because she was getting married and moving away. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a brief entry followed by the fictionalized story. 

     Nettie's story is one of change. The Mennonite community is caught between the German and Russian forces in World War I. The Bolshevik Revolution then adds more soldiers with pro-Czar and pro-Stalin forces. The community also has to worry about the Makhnovites, who, according to the Mennonites, are Ukrainian bandits and robbers. The surrounding communities are looted and destroyed. The Mennonites are torn between their nonviolent beliefs and their need to protect their homes and families. As the situation intensifies, many of the Mennonites consider leaving their homes to travel to Canada. David Towes from Rosthern has sponsored a number of Mennonites who are farmers to come to the area. The Mennonites will repay their expenses over a period of time.

     Nettie's father is a school teacher. As money is tight, food is scarce. He decides that he will emigrate to Canada. Nettie is grateful that he had the courage to make the change. Her story tells of the years leading up to the decision to leave and then ends with the arrival in Canada. In the epilogue, Nettie gives the diary to her granddaughter, Lisa, so that Lisa will always remember that part of her family's history.

     The story is based on the life of the author's mother-in-law, Nettie Pauls Dueck. Adele Dueck tells the reader that the main details are true and that the body of the work has been inspired by Nettie's stories. A Bibliography, Chronology of Important Events, Glossary and the Author's Notes are included at the conclusion of the story.

     This book is part of a series, “From Many Peoples,” which is a partnership between Couteau Books and the Lavonne Black Memorial Fund. The series has been produced in celebration of Saskatchewan's Centennial with stories to illuminate life in Saskatchewan from different cultural groups. This book would be an excellent addition to any school, public or personal library. The historical content also makes it a good choice for supplementing the Social Studies curriculum. 


Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold, a retired teacher-librarian, educator and Resource Based Learning Consultant, lives in Shellbrook, SK.

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

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