CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002
I sometimes wonder why Canadian history lessons are so fixated on the explorers and the fur trade. Champlain, Cartier, Cabot, LaSalle, MacKenzie, all turned up year after year when I was at school, and the one time we touched on the American Revolution, it was entirely from the viewpoint of the noble Rebels fighting those nasty overbearing Brits. There was no mention of the United Empire Loyalists as they are now called, those people living in the Thirteen Colonies who did not want to break with Britain and who were, as a result, run out of town and forced to head north into the wilderness that was Canada.
With Nothing But Our Courage, the diary of the 12-year-old daughter of one of these Loyalists, tells the story of the family's expulsion from its home in Albany where Mary's father taught school and farmed, their trek northwards first with horse and wagon, then by boat up Lake Champlain, and finally on foot to Sorel in Quebec. The twentieth century does not have a monopoly on refugees! These people, who arrived with practically nothing (Granny's slip of a lilac bush hardly counts), were given tents, blankets and food to see them through the winter. Was this Canada, or perhaps Afghanistan! The British had the advantage of having vast tracts of land which they "owned" and could, therefore, give away, and so their "refugee" problems were quickly shuffled off upstream. The Loyalists were not abandoned, however, but were supported with supplies and tools for several years until they could reasonably be assumed to be self-supporting. On the whole, things seem to have been managed remarkably well, though the settlers would frequently have been in great difficulties had the local Indians not been so helpful. It is a pity that they were repaid so unkindly.
Karleen Bradford has written much historical fiction, and she goes to great pains to "get it right." This story feels right. The attitudes and emotions ring true: the ailing baby dies, children make friends and find pets. And history is made. It's interesting both as a story and as history and certainly gives a lot of background information on which further facts of the period can be hung. It is a very successful addition to the "Dear Canada" series.
Mary Thomas works in two elementary schools in Winnipeg, MB, and rejoices that so many teachers, and now students, are coming in looking for books by Canadian authors. This one sat on the shelf for about 10 minutes!
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.