CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
But she wasn't sure how her mother would feel about her going riding with someone like Dan. For one thing, his mother was an Indian woman. It was all very confusing. One of her mother's best friends was an Indian woman. They had been friends for many years and the Indian woman had lived with them for a while and helped to care for the children. Her father also had many friends among the native people. They lived side by side, worked together, hunted together. But she also knew there was a difference between her family and the other people, the Bois-Brules, as they called themselves, people who were part white, part Indian. Some of the other white people called them half-breeds, and made fun of their way of life, which made Reine furious. But the hardest part was that Reine didn't really know how to make friends. She didn't know any other people her age. She spent all of her time with her family, taking care of the children and helping her mother. Until a few years ago, she and her brothers and sisters were the only white kids she knew. Reine was the second white child born in that part of the Northwest. They were always on the move, as her father hunted and trapped for a living. Then a few years ago, they settled on the Red River. Because they were French Canadian and Catholic, they weren't really part of the new settlement of Scottish people. But they weren't Bois-Brules either. Reine knew that everyone liked and respected her father and mother. But much of the time, the Lagimodieres stuck to themselves.
The story is highly entertaining even as it presents some of the history of the settlement of the Red River Valley. The heroine, Reine Lagimodiere, is the 13-year-old eldest daughter of French Canadian settlers. Much of the time during the story, she works very hard for a young girl, assisting her mother with caring for five younger siblings and doing the housework. There is little time for amusement, but the occasional neighborhood gathering with music and dancing brings her much happiness. Also her growing friendship with Dan Archibald, the 15-year-old son of a white father and Indian mother, gives her something to dream about. Their lives are full of hard work, but since she has never known any other life, Reine is happy. Suddenly, a new and unknown danger presents itself. In the spring, the Red River, which flows by their land, begins to rise higher and higher. Alone at their cabin with the younger children, Reine must decide what is best.....stay and wait for their mother to return, or start walking away from the river to safety. She decides on a plan, packs food and clothes, and sets out with the little ones to walk to the next farm. Then she realizes that they are hemmed in by the rising water. To her relief, Dan comes riding to get them and helps them all cross a water-filled ravine and keep going. Soon they are reunited with their mother and then with all the other settlers who find refuge on Bird's Hill. There, they remain for 22 days until it is safe to return to their land. The barn and chicken coop are gone, but their precious log house is still there. The wheat fields begin to sprout, and the Lagimodieres know that life will go on. Reine promises Dan she will wait for him as he heads out to begin to make his way in the world.
The book has a very short glossary at the end, plus some historical notes which are of great interest. The Lagimodiere family were actual pioneers of the Red River Valley, and their eighth child, Julie, who has not been born yet in this story, became the mother of Louis Riel. This book presents a very enjoyable introduction to a little known part of Canadian history and should be of great interest to teachers.
Vancouver's Luanne Armstrong is an award-winning author who has written several books both for children and adults, plus poetry. Robin LeDrew is a British Columbia based artist whose illustrated fantasy, A Future So Bright, can be found in the Lumby virtual village at www.monashee.com.
Luella Sumner, a retired librarian, lives in Red Lake, ON.
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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.