________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001

cover A River Apart.

Robert Sutherland.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000.
184 pp., pbk. & cl., $12.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55041-646-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55041-652-9 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Canada-History-War of 1812-Juvenile fiction.
United States-History-War of 1812-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 13.

Review by Betsy Fraser.

**1/2 /4


James knew the attack had succeeded, that the enemy had surrendered their guns. But there was no feeling of exultation. Only a growing anxiety for Jared.

Leah and her mother heard the shouting, the popping of musket gunfire, the delayed answering blast of cannon fire. They stood together on the stoop, wordless, wondering, fearing - listening for the beat of a drum. And one of them at least wondered, with a sense of dread, if Jamie Shaw was part of it all. And they too heard the drumbeat end abruptly. They could only stand and wait. And pray.

It is the spring of 1812. Fifteen-year-old Jamie Shaw had heard rumblings about an impending war, but he and his family were fairly certain that there were only a few hotheads responsible. He continued to farm with his family in Canada and visit his best friends, Jared and Leah Jackson, on the American side of the St. Lawrence River. When Mr. Jackson declares that Jamie is their enemy until the end of the war, all three teenagers are devastated. Jamie returns home and agrees to join the Militia with his father in case of an American attack, while Jared joins the American army as a drummer boy, and Leah is dismayed by the danger the two of them will be in and the prospect of a long separation from Jamie. The most chilling prospect of all was the possibility that they would end up on the opposite sides of a battle.

      The determination of the militant Mr. Jackson allows Sutherland to place the characters at the epicenter of the skirmishes that took place along the St. Lawrence. The story is concerned with the phenomenon of friends and relatives placed in opposite sides of a war, rather than presenting a historical re-telling of the battles, as with Eric Walters' The Bully Boys or John Ibbotson's Jeremy's War 1812. These two novels are intended to introduce readers to actual historical figures: Walters' novel follows the wartime exploits of Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon, leader of the "Green Tigers," and Ibbotson's novel features a character who ends up as the batman to General Isaac Brock. Sutherland's novel, while following the battles that took place, follows the lives of the three teens as they are swept up by the war. The war brings different problems to their lives: separation from a loved one, the terror of hurting someone you care about, moral and ethical dilemmas pitting love against patriotism. Readers wishing to learn about the War of 1812 would be better sticking to one of the other books about the conflict. Sutherland's novel will attract teens looking for a strong story set against a historical backdrop rather than straight history. The male protagonists, coupled with the romantic subplot, make this a possible read for boys or girls.


Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.

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