CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 40. . . .June 17, 2011.
Hoping for Home: Stories of Arrival. (Dear Canada).
Lillian Boraks-Nemetz and others. Illustrated by Greg Ruhl.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2011.
242 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
Immigrant children-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 3-9 / Ages 8-14.
Review by Nicole Dalmer.
Monday, July 1, 1912
Today is a holiday. By early afternoon my chores were done. Mrs. Hawthorn and Miss Tabitha had gone to Victoria Park to hear the band concert and to share a picnic lunch with Mr. Charles and his family.
I made my way to the park too. Families sat on the lawn below the white bandstand, the ladies shaded from the sun by bright parasols and wide-brimmed hats.
“Harry!” a little voice called and I saw Lizzie running towards me. “Why didn’t you come to the picnic? We had chicken and cake and oranges!”
I told her she was a lucky girl – that I had never been on a picnic.
Later, a summer storm woke me up in the middle of the night. Wind rattled the window. I jumped out of bed, closed the window and watched lightning zigzag across the sky before I huddled down in my bed again.
Dedicated to “all who have forged a home in Canada”, this anthology of 11 short stories, each written by a different well-known Canadian author (Jean Little, Kit Pearson, Brian Doyle, etc.), chronicles the challenges and successes of young people’s arrivals in Canada.
With dates ranging from 1853 to 1965, each of the stories is a collection of first-person diary entries written by a single, fictional protagonist. These characters detail their view of their day-to-day happenings and their overall impressions of Canada and the struggles and victories they have in meeting friends, settling in, and adjusting to living in a new country with new customs and norms. I expect that this personal take on Canadian history, especially being told from the perspective of a child or teenager, will allow readers to relate to their country’s history with a deeper and richer understanding.
Each story is written by an author who either has personally experienced the immigration process or who has extensively researched the multifaceted process of arriving and integrating oneself in a new country. Readers can explore many different cultures and many different time periods, following, for example, the journals of Joe Wong-on who recently left his mother in China to join his father in Saskatchewan in the 1920s, Harriet James, an orphan from Britain, who tries to make a new home in Peterborough, Ontario, or Miriam Hartfeld who came from Poland to Montreal with her Jewish family following World War II. Impressively, without fail, each author managed to craft the diary entries with the proper proportions of mundane happenings and introspective observations, adding to the believability of the characters and the reader’s ability to better relate to historical facts and events peppered throughout. Furthermore, each story’s diction and pacing is true to the personality of the character of that story as well as the time period in which the diary entry is written.
Adding to the authenticity of the diaries is the “feel” of the book. The edges of the pages are frayed and jagged, and a ribbon is included to hold the reader’s place. Reinforcing the individuality of each of the protagonists’ thoughts, experiences and stories, each story is depicted by a different typeface.
Overall, Hoping for Home is a highly enjoyable read. Not only can it be read over many sittings, with the readers digesting each story one at a time, the collection is infused with Canadian history in such a way that allows its readers to ponder how they may have felt and reacted had they been in the diary writer’s position.
Nicole Dalmer just completed her first year of the MLIS program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB.
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