________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 10 . . . . January 19, 2001

cover Jeremy's War 1812.
[Original title: 1812: Jeremy and the General.]

John Ibbitson.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2000. [Originally published by Maxwell Macmillan, 1991.]
207 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 1-55074-988-9.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-War of 1812-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Anne Letain.

*** /4

When I began reading Jeremy's War 1812, I had not read any of the accompanying "press" surrounding it. My first reaction was: this must be one of those books the Ministry of Education in Ontario commissions to teach the history sections of Div. II [gr. 4-6]. I could tell right away that the story was historically accurate and was likely a reasonable way to convey some important events in Ontario/Canadian history. Imagine my surprise to discover that the book was written by a very well thought of Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, and that the book had been a GG nominee in 1991. So I persevered, and gradually the story of Jeremy Fields, orphan, who joins the army to become the personal assistant to General Isaac Brock, grew on me.

      Ibbitson captures much of the excitement in the anticipation of, and actual war with the Americans, from the battle for Ft. Detroit to Queenston Heights. Still, although the writing is deft, and the author feels strongly about his subject, there is the pervasive feel about this book that it is really about teaching young people about the heavy wages of war [honour vs betrayal, duty vs common sense, and opportunism,] and not about the story of a 15-year-old caught up in a situation beyond his understanding or control. The War of 1812 is also very much about the geography of the Niagara Peninsula, and while this may be familiar territory to central Canadians, the battle descriptions were a bit of a jigsaw for this western Canadian who has only been there once. Although the excitement that students in Western Canada would feel over the battles would be genuine, I think they would have difficulty in putting the whole story in its true geographical context, if this were the intent of the presentation of the book. I have encountered few works of fiction which address the War of 1812 for this age group, and certainly feel that Jeremy's War 1812 should be on the shelves of Canada's school libraries. The new cover art commends this work of historical fiction to male students looking for some "action and adventure."


Anne Letain is a teacher-librarian and school library consultant in Southern Alberta.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364