________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000

cover The Lady at Batoche.

David Richards.
Saskatoon SK: Thistledown Press, 1999.
275pp, pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-895449-87-1.

Grades 8 - 12 / Ages 13 - 17.
Review by Ruth Scales McMahon.

**1/2 /4


Adrien, screaming at full power, lead his men at a dead run for the guns. Some of the gunners were still ducking from the volley; others stared in shock at the rebel charge. Luc shrieked his fear down as he sprinted after his father. Now the artillerymen began to scramble toward the limbers for their rifles but Luc sensed that they were too late already. He ran on with confidence - only twenty meters more and the Metis would have the guns!
The Lady at Batoche is the second book about the Riel Rebellion. In the first book, Soldier Boys, the Canadians and the Metis fight the Battle of Fish Creek. The Lady at Batoche tells the story of the subsequent battle for Batoche. Both novels are told from the point of view of the Canadians through the eyes of 14-year-old Tom Kerslake, bugler for the 90th Batallion Winnipeg Rifles and the Metis through the eyes of Luc Goyette, also 14. Louis Riel and Gabrielle Dumont make brief appearances, as does General Middleton.

Richards' strength lies in his ability to describe battle scenes and interweave historic detail with the action. His fascination and enthusiasm for the subject matter comes across and captures the reader while propelling the story forward. The book includes a glossary, maps and a "Fact and Fiction" section.

The difficulty with The Lady at Batoche is it is tough to get started. Richards tries to bring many characters to life in his novels and, for the most part, is successful. However, keeping track of these characters can be a problem, at least in the early pages of this novel. In order to get the characters straight, one should probably read Soldier Boys first. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that Richards refers to the characters using a combination of nicknames, first names, and family names.

The book takes its title from a short scene near the end of the novel, where two of the central characters, Tom Kerlsake and Luc Goyette's love interest, Marie, see an apparition. Although the vision is a turning point in the lives of these two characters, it seems a strange choice for a title, given the compelling exposition of the historic scenes in the novel.

This is an important novel for its subject matter and, when paired with Soldier Boys, is an engaging read.


Ruth Scales McMahon, a library consultant and storyteller, is currently the co-chair of the Alberta Young Reader's Choice Award and the co-chair of the Lethbridge Children's Literature Roundtable.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364