I’ve recently purchased most of the Dear Canada books and am on the hunt for the few remaining. They’re a well written collection of 36 books designed to get young people engaged in history. Their target age group is about 12, but good writing doesn’t have an age limit on it, especially when they’re covering topics such as political tension, loss of friends and family through death and/or separation, war, invasions, medical disasters, etc.
They really don’t sugar coat anything in these books and while many terrible things happen in them, it still feels real and accessible and there are important pieces of Canadian history in this series that people might not be aware of. I’ve been meaning to learn more about the history of my own country, but I like learning in a fun way and when I come across interesting facts then I’ll do a little more background research. The series covers fascinating chunks of history in Canada from 1666 to 1948 in locations coast to coast.
I’m working my way through the collection, though I’ll be tossing in other books to mix it up as well. I’m currently reading With Nothing But Our Courage: The Loyalist Diary of Mary MacDonald by Karleen Bradford. This book is set in 1783, beginning in Albany, New York and ending in Johnstown, Quebec. Before this book I had no idea that Canada featured in the American Revolution in any way. Now I know that it was a haven for British loyalists fleeing their homes.
Here’s a little more information if anyone is interested: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/american-revolution/
I’ve read two more in the series (I’m working through them in chronological order based on their setting) and they were both excellent. Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Helene St. Onge is set in Montreal, New France in 1666 and is written by Maxine Trotter. I learned about a unique piece of Canadian history from this book. From 1663 to 1673 nearly 800 girls were sponsored by King Louis XIV to come to New France and get married so that the French colony could have sustained growth. I had known that people came from Europe to the colonies, but I had never heard about the Filles du Roi (Daughters of the King) before. I couldn’t imagine being a young teen and deciding to cross an ocean alone to marry a stranger in the wilderness.
Here’s a listing of the Filles du Roi. You might even find an ancestor there if you have French blood and didn’t come straight from Europe. http://www.fillesduroi.org/src/Filles_list.htm#S
The Death of My Country: The Plains of Abraham Diary of Genevieve Aubuchon is set in Quebec, New France in 1759 and is also written by Maxine Trotter (I tried to locate more of Maxine’s work, but she doesn’t seem to have a consistent web presence). This book features an Abenaki girl who was orphaned and raised by a French widow in Quebec. I vaguely remember learning about the Plains of Abraham in school, but couldn’t remember anything concrete except that it involved Montcalm and Wolfe and that they both died. The book covers the invasion of Quebec by British forces. One thing I learned, that I’d never really thought about before, was that the British brought Scots with them to fight the French. This was only thirteen years after the Battle of Culloden, so things between the British and the Scots were probably not particularly rosy (as anyone who has read Outlander can tell you). Here’s a link to some info on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham/
This is why I love historical fiction. It prompts me to learn more about the world around me. Usually what I’ll do before I travel somewhere is choose a historical fiction that is set in that particular location. The characters and to some extent, the events, might be fictional, but it creates a connection to the place and to the history. I think that learning should be fun and reading is a great way to introduce learning to people. I know when I was studying some of these things in school I was bored, but that’s because kids don’t get particularly interested when you tell them this event happened on this day. If you give them a book about it featuring someone their age then it can bring history to life and I’ll always recommend something that can make a person love history.
Here’s the entire collection if you want to check it out: http://www.scholastic.ca/dearcanada/books/
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