CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002
Young readers will sympathize with and have empathy for the protagonist in this historical novel set in Saskatchewan and Ontario during World War I. Barbara Haworth-Attard addresses the theme of hope, using a flying geese quilt to represent a young girl's past, her family and her hopes for the future. Haworth-Attard, the author of the popular Home Child, has written a sensitive and realistic story about an impoverished family which loses its farm and moves far away to live with relatives in London, Ontario. Her willingness to address all the problems that arise in such traumatic situations makes the story believable and compelling.
Margaret Brown is a 12-year-old girl who has experienced far too many unhappy events. Her beloved grandmother has died, and her father has been injured and can no longer run their farm. Her brother enlists in the Army and is going overseas. Her father and her pregnant mother move Margaret, her three brothers and two sisters across the country to London, Ontario, where they don't fit in. For a time they live with their uncle, their snobby aunt and uppity cousins. Margaret is miserable, embarrassed by their grinding poverty, misses home, and is upset at the turmoil that her parents are experiencing. Her world is upside down.
Margaret clings to her past to sustain her present. She recalls her grandmother's sage advice, dispensed when Margaret threaded Grandma's quilting needles. Reaching for something to hold on to, she invents her own solution to her dilemma. She begins working on a flying geese quilt, using scraps of worn clothing from her family. She convinces herself that, when she finishes the quilt, her family will be able to return to their farm to watch real geese fly overhead.
At school, Margaret is an outcast, made even more miserable by her sneering cousin. She longs to fit in but is drawn to another outcast, Jean, a poor girl whose father is in jail because he stole food and cigarettes. But Jean is a nice girl, and Margaret can't help but be friends with her. Both Margaret and Jean are helped by Mrs. Ferguson, Margaret's landlady, who is herself struggling with the reality of her son's death at Ypres.
The ending is not the perfect dream ending that fiction can produce. Finally, Margaret comes to terms with her situation, and the reader is confident that the family is aware of the difficulties facing them. But there is no promise they will overcome them or that there will not be more.
This story will appeal especially to pre-adolescent girls who enjoy historical fiction.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.