Dear Canada: A step back in time

BOOKS

Alone in an Untamed Land

Alone in an Untamed Land
The Filles du Roi Diary of Hélène St. Onge

By Maxine Trottier

ISBN: 978-0-439-98969-5 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2808-7 Ebook
224 pages | Ages 8-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

Young Hélène St. Onge and her older sister Catherine are orphans. When King Louis XVI orders all men in New France to marry, Catherine becomes a fille du roi, one of the many young women sent to the new world as brides. Hélène will accompany her on the long sea voyage and live with her sister's new family. But Catherine dies during the gruelling journey, and Hélène finds herself alone in strange new country. New France is a far harsher place than she imagined, with bitter winters and the threat of attack from the Iroquois. Will the new friendships she has made on her long voyage enable her to survive?

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From Hélène's diary:

le 5 juin 1666

Monsieur Deschamps returned today. An agreement has been reached. I may accompany her, but since I am so young Catherine insisted it will not be as a fille à marier, even though some girls even younger than I have married there. I cannot imagine marrying at eleven or twelve years of age.

Monsieur Deschamps seemed to think it would be perfectly correct. "Come now, mademoiselle," he said. "Would you not like to be the wife of a Montréal merchant?"

I could not help myself. I burst out that I was but thirteen years old.

Monsieur Deschamps and Cousin Pierre looked at each other in a way I disliked.

le 6 juin 1666

We leave on Friday. The mass this Sunday morning was the last I shall ever attend at our church in Reignac. I prayed that both Catherine and I will have the strength to make the journey and leave our dear home behind.

Monsieur Deschamps has travelled on ahead to the ship, but Madame Laurent has remained here at Le Cadeau so that she might act as our chaperone on the journey. She is a pleasant woman, pink-cheeked and jolly, and I think it will be a pleasure to travel with her.

It will be a journey of three days or so from here. We are to go by Cousin Pierre's coach to La Rochelle and then sail to New France. There will not be room for us to take much, only a few chests. Mine will be the small one, since Catherine has so many lovely things as a bride.

Cousin Pierre has shown us a kindness in the form of a gift of money. Fifty livres. It is generous, I suppose, and I pray it will be enough. As a fille à marier Catherine has one hundred livres. Some of that is for clothing, and sixty for the ship's passage. Monsieur Deschamps received ten livres from that as a fee for enlisting her. I understand his eagerness now.

Madame Laurent says that it may be possible to procure more private accommodations on the ship. Those with no money must share a common space. Catherine wrinkles her nose to think of such a thing, but it could be most interesting.

le 7 juin 1666

I have helped Louise carefully fold and pack Catherine's trousseau. Cousine Madeleine and Anne watched us. Madeleine made a suggestion once or twice. She does know a good deal about the care of fine clothing, as she has so much of it herself. There is another chest with our bedding, sheets and quilts and such. It has worn me out, and so I am writing this in bed.

I packed my own things alone in my room. Stockings, shifts, pockets, aprons, handkerchiefs, shoes, caps, a coiffe, a comb, a warm shawl, an everyday gown with its skirt and bodice, and a gown for church. Cleaning sticks for my teeth, my rosary and my prayer book. It is all crammed into my chest.

I bent down to pick up a ribbon that had dropped onto the carpet, and when I turned to my chest, there was Minette sitting inside it. It brought tears to my eyes. I picked her up and she purred in contentment.

"No, Minette," I said sadly. "You cannot come." I told her that she must stay here with Louise or go to the barn. She must be a good, brave cat and keep away all the mice. Life is unfair.

From Dear Canada: Alone in an Untamed Land, copyright © 2003 by Maxine Trottier.

YOUR REVIEWS:

Loved it. I learned about Filles de Roi, (Daughters of Kings) in history, and when I saw there was a book on it I was really interested. This book is just plain good. I would recommend it to anyone.
Emily O., Age 14, Ontario, Rating: 10

I really love this book! It is so exciting. So sad yet so happy at times!
Lisa T., Age 12, Manitoba, Rating: 10

I had to read for school. I didn't like it at first and then I couldn't put it down! It is so good! I loved it so much I decided to read other Dear Canada books! I will never forget this amazing story.
Yaya S., Age 13, Ontario, Rating: 10

It was a good book!!!! My mom read it too!
Roma A., Age 11, Ontario, Rating: 10

I love this book! I am from Montréal, Quebec myself like Hélène! It's my fave Dear Canada.
Gillian J., Age 10, Quebec, Rating: 10

I've read a lot of the Dear Canada books, and this one by far has to be my favorite! :)
Kendra K., Age 15, Alberta, Rating: 10

The book was heartbreaking but, had a happy ending for Mrs. Aubrey!
Kateri A., Age 10, Ontario. Rating: 10

This is probably one of the best Dear Canada books there is. I couldn't stop reading it!
Melissa A., Age: 10, Saskatchewan, Rating: 10

This was my first Dear Canada book and one of the best books they have! The diary, epilogue and historical note were beautifully written. I'll tell all of my friends about the Dear Canada books!
Elizabeth C., Age: 10, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book has an exciting yet sad story that makes you want to read it all over again.
Lourdes M., Age: 11, Saskatchewan, Rating: 8

I think this might have been the first Dear Canada book I read. I got it from the library. Once I read it, I knew it was my favorite. I loved it so much that when my birthday came around my parents got it for and wrote a love message on the front. This the best Dear Canada book ever!
Sophia T., Age: 12, New Brunswick, Rating: 10

This book is the best! I think that this is one of the best books in the world. I love Maxine Trottier.
Catherine-Jena F., Age: 11, Saskatchewan, Rating: 10

I have the book and it's very good. I can’t keep my eyes off the page!!
Merandah N., Age: 11, Ontario, Rating: 10

One of the best Dear Canada books of them all! I couldn't put it down. I want to read it over and over again!
Georgia C., Age: 10, Ontario, Rating: 10

I've had this book for nearly 10 years now and it remains my favourite out of the series. The heroine is plucky and remains strong in the face of tragedy. It's an inspirational book and I still pick it off my bookshelf at times to flip through the pages and read the epilogue, relishing in Helene's happy marriage.
Shana L., Age: 19, Ontario, Rating: 8

I am a grade 7 Social Studies teacher in Alberta. I use this book for morning reading time with my class. The vocabulary is appropriate for my advanced ESL learners. The colourful wording entrances the children as they become amazed as how the worldview was back in that time, how could someone age 12 marry let alone survive in such a rough new land. We take turns reading aloud, we love the French accent we hear when we read aloud and the French words embedded into the story. Not only do I read this every year with my class, but I have read it with my then grade 3 daughter who begged for more as she was falling asleep at night. The book is engaging, so this is a warning for any adults who begin to turn the pages, you too will be caught up in a truly Canadian voyage.
Susan G., Alberta, Rating: 10