Pioneer novel brings suspense, romance
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Alberta author Martine Leavitt (previously published as Martine Bates) won the Governor General’s award for Calvin in 2015 and has written over a dozen young adult books. In her newest release, Buffalo Flats (Groundwood, 256 pages, hardcover, $20) she tells tales of an earlier age, the 19th century, in an area of the North-West Territories close to the Montana border.
Based on stories of her husband’s family, she focuses on the life of Rebecca Leavitt, an early feminist who longs for her own piece of land in a time when women were not able to own property. Outspoken and independent, she frequently defies the codes of her strict Mormon community but is blessed with parents who recognize her worth and forgive her shortcomings. A pioneer story full of accounts of inclement weather, endless labour, floods and plagues, it also shows the self-sacrifice and solidarity that held these communities together.
There is suspense, as Rebecca must act as midwife before she is properly trained, and faces an enraged neighbour threatening her with a horse whip. And there’s romance, as Rebecca weighs the worth of the charismatic Levi against those of the stolid but loyal and hard-working Cody.
For lovers of historical fiction ages 12-18.
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Lina Gao hasn’t seen her parents in five years. Living with her grandmother in China, her picture of their lives is a glossy version from American TV; when she arrives in California at the age of 10, she finds reality is far from her expectations.
Kelly Yang’s mid-level novel Finally Seen (Simon & Schuster, 304 pages, hardcover, $23) exposes the difficulties and racism faced by immigrants arriving in North America. In these days of increased immigrant absorption, it’s a topical situation.
Lina isn’t just confused — she’s jealous of her younger sister who travelled with her parents five years ago. Why was Lina left behind? Why is her sister so comfortable in English? And she’s puzzled: why can’t her father get a green card and work in a decent job? Why is her mother reduced to making bath bombs in order to pay the back rent? Yet her family’s intelligence and hard work show her that even when things are hard, determination can turn things around.
Yang is an award-winning author whose life story parallels that of Lena. She came to America at age six and faced many of the challenges we encounter in this book. Yang has written several young adult novels including Parachutes and Private Label Front Desk.
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Author Jessica Outram has given us a story with a difference: a book that incorporates many phrases in the Métis language, Michif.
In Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold (Second Story Press, 190 pages, paperback $13), her first children’s novel, she draws on her family’s own history.
When eight-year-old Bernice is shown a piece of rock with gold streaks and finds a map that once belonged to famous artist Tom Thomson, she’s convinced she can find the gold and solve her family’s financial problems. After many false starts she sets out alone to try to reach the secret location. Will she succeed? Mid-level readers (9-12) will be urging her on.
Outram admits that Métis languages vary. Bernice’s version is described as Métis French as opposed to Parisian French. It adds authenticity to her story as Bernice interacts with her family, especially her Mémèr, or grandmother. Outram’s great-aunt’s family lived in the Gereaux Island lighthouse near the community of Britt, Ont. In her great aunt’s time families hid their Métis roots because they were dangerous to acknowledge after the hanging of Louis Riel.
Helen Norrie finds inspiration in many kinds of children’s books.
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