________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 10 . . . . January 15, 1999

cover Charlotte.

Janet Lunn. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 1998.
32 pp, cloth, $17.99.
ISBN 0-88876-383-9.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.
Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4

image A keen interest in history plus a gift for story-telling combine to make Janet Lunn one of Canada's most highly acclaimed children's writers. Last year's publication of The Hollow Tree completed her trio of novels set during the American Revolution that began with The Root Cellar and Shadow in Hawthorne Bay. In 1783, ten-year-old Charlotte's hometown of New York is still suffering the aftermath of eight terrible years of fighting for independence from Great Britain. Families and neighbours are bitterly divided as some support the rebel cause and others remain loyal to the British king. While Charlotte's father supports the rebels, his brother, Charlotte's uncle and father of her beloved cousins, Sally and Betsy, is a Loyalist. Charlotte's father forbids her ever to see her cousins again, but, when Charlotte finds out that Loyalist families are being sent away to the wilds of Nova Scotia, she is determined to say good-bye to the girls. The punishment of her defiance, a result of her father's fanatic devotion to the rebel cause, is, at least for modern readers, shockingly harsh.

      Charlotte is the true story of a young girl caught up in the terrible fear and hatred that war, especially civil war, engenders. It is a grim story. Although Charlotte survives as one of the three thousand refugees that landed on the rocky shore of the St. John harbour, her life is forever changed. It is not a tale to be read to the very young. Nor, without a proper introduction, will it be appreciated by a majority of elementary school readers. Grade six students who have studied the Loyalists, or those readers who have enjoyed The Hollow Tree and The Root Cellar will be more likely to understand and appreciate the story of Charlotte.

      Brian Deines' realistic paintings portraying 18th century New York show careful attention to the architecture, furniture and clothing of Colonial America. He does not, however, do as well with the faces of Lunn's characters, all of whom have a disappointing similarity of feature and expression. Although each illustration highlights a significant event of the story, there is a curious stilted quality to the figures portrayed. Deines is at his best in his carefully detailed depiction of buildings and landscapes and his use of soft and warm colours. Each of his paintings gives the reader a sense of authenticity as this true tale of a girl torn between the people she loves most unfolds.

      Charlotte is a picture book which exemplifies the new "E" for "Everybody," rather than the older "E" for "Easy" categorization in the school library. It will certainly hold more appeal for upper elementary and middle school students, and it deserves a place in the growing collection of picture books which depict the past with accuracy and authenticity.

Recommended with reservations.

Valerie Nielsen, a recently retired Winnipeg, Manitoba, teacher-librarian, co-chairs the MYRCA Committee.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364