Dear Canada: A step back in time

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Orphan at My Door

Orphan at My Door
The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope

By Jean Little

ISBN: 978-0-439-98834-6 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-443-11314-4 Ebook
224 pages | Ages 8-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

At the turn of the century, Dr. Thomas Barnardo, an English philanthropist, sought to give orphaned and abandoned children a second chance in the New World. These children — "Home Children" as they were called — came to work in Canada as farm labourers and domestic servants. Victoria Cope's family takes in a Home Child, a sad and quiet girl named Mary Anna. Victoria soon discovers the reason for Mary Anna's silence — she was separated from her younger brother. Victoria vows to help Mary Anna find her brother. As Victoria confides her hopes and fears to her "Dear Diary," she reveals herself as a born writer.

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From Victoria's diary:

Saturday, May 29, 1897

So much happened today that I can never get it all written down at one go. My hand would drop off. But I'll start.

We went and got our Home Girl. She is very small and shy. Her name is Mary Anna Wilson and she is twelve years old. She is smaller than I am and very thin.

But let me tell it like a story even if it does have to be true. If I read it in a book, I would be fascinated.

When we got to the station, there were just four children on the platform. Only one of them was a girl. A lady was sitting on a bench next to her. All four wore labels with their names written on them, and each of them had a trunk with his or her name on it. They were big, wooden ones with brass corners. They had nothing else, just one trunk and the clothes they wore on their backs.

The lady was the only one without luggage so I was not sure she was really with them. Father must have had the same thought.

"I am Dr. Alastair Cope," he said. "I was told to meet this train. Are you escorting these children, madam?"

The lady stood up and gave my father an annoyed glance. "We arrived almost an hour ago," she said frostily. "The two other girls I was escorting have already gone."

"I am sorry to have been unavoidably delayed," Father said, his voice cool but polite. "Hold the reins, Victoria."

He got down from the gig and reached out his hand to the lady. I gripped the reins, glad Bess was a calm horse. I could tell Father was displeased about something. He seemed to be studying the one girl waiting there. She had not looked at us or spoken a word.

"We need someone strong to help my wife," he told the woman. "That girl is nothing but a child. A sickly youngster wouldn't be worth her keep."

The girl could not help but hear every word he spoke. I told myself she was only a Home Girl and they must be used to such things, but it was embarrassing for me. Father did not sound like himself. I knew, if I were her, each word would feel like the cut of a switch. She did not flinch, though, but stood still as stone.

"I can assure you, sir, that she is perfectly stout. We don't place girls who are not well. You are fit as a fiddle, aren't you, Mary Anna?"

The girl had her head ducked down so far we could just see the top of her hat. She mumbled something without raising her head.

"Look at me when you speak, child," Father said. "What's your name?"

"My name is Mary Anna Wilson. I am strong and healthy," she said in a clear but dead voice. It sounded as though every word had been ironed flat. "I am twelve years of age."

"Are you a hard worker, Mary Anna?" Father asked her.

"Yes, sir," she said.

"If she does not suit your wife, write to us and we will move her," the woman said. "The smaller girls are tough and wiry, you know. Would you like a boy?"

"No, thank you, madam," Father said, smiling at last. "I have two boys. But one of your young fellows can hold the horse's head while I get a few more particulars and give you whatever information you wish. Jump in behind Victoria, Mary. I will only be a minute."

A little boy with red hair poking out from under his cap was standing close to Mary Anna. The lady told him to take the bridle. He ran to Bess's head.

As Father and the lady went into the waiting room the boy pushed his cap back and gazed up at Mary Anna. His bright hair hung in his eyes. The eyes themselves were enormous and bluer than blue.

I cannot write another word or my hand will drop off. Also, Mother called up to blow out my candle. More tomorrow, dear Diary. I know I am breaking off just when things are getting exciting, but you'll just have to wait.

From Dear Canada: Orphan at My Door, copyright © 2001 by Jean Little.

YOUR REVIEWS:

This was my very first Dear Canada book. I loved this book and I love hearing about historical moments and this was one in my heart. I'm almost done the whole series but I never want it to stop. If all books were like this one EVERYBODY WOULD READ THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Natalie N., Age 11, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book was awesome!!! It was sad when they found Jasper in that mean man's house. Her great aunt is horrible.
Ally M., Age 10, Ontario, Rating: 10

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I read this book this book in a little over 2 weeks!! I can't believe how rude people were to little home children!! I mean how she said you could see bone and count how many ribs he had! That seems so sad I wanted to cry at times. Well there's my review. Bye [P.S. I Love All Of These Books!!]
Sara F., Age 9, Alberta, Rating: 10

Orphan At My Door was such a sad book. But it was one of the best. Me and my friend read it and it was amazing. I can't wait to read another Dear Canada book!
Maya R., Age 9, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book is one of my favourite Dear Canada Books. Victoria's life is filled with fun and adventure as a young 12 year old. And reading the author's note a great life after that. This is such a good book I'm using it for a school book report. Keep you posted on my grade!
Elizah M., Age 13, Ontario, Rating: 9

Orphan at My Door was astounding! It was my favourite Dear Canada book out of all of them I have read so far! I saw myself as Victoria in the book and I really felt a connection. I could NOT put this book down, it was amazing and I plan to read more of Jean Little's novels! Truly amazing I recommend this book to all young girls! Really I think we can all make a connection to this book and Victoria's feelings and actions!
Danitza, Age 13, Alberta, Rating: 10

Orphan at My Door was the second Dear Canada book I've read. I like how in the diary Marianna actually wrote to Victoria "No Victoria, I don't feel like Oliver Twist." I never actually liked history before I read this book but now I cant get enough of history and these books.
Leeann C., Age 12, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!! It is one of the best book I have ever read!!!!! I love the Dear Canadas. They are the BEST books EVER!!!!
Sarah B., Age: 12, British Columbia, Rating: 10

Me and my best friend read this and were stunned by how descriptive the author is! We loved it! This book is our favourite and always will be! Keep going!
Aurora R., Age: 11, Saskatchewan, Rating: 10

BEST BOOK EVER
Sarah, Age: 13, Ontario, Rating: 8

OMG I just finished reading this book. We had it at our school library, and I loved it sooooo much I read it in one day. I haven’t read a book in like two years and it is definitely now my favorite book ever. I am going to get the other ones and read them all. The book was so sad but amazing at the same time, I will read it again tonight!!! I can relate to some of the situations in the book and I feel so bad how she has so much stress in her life for an 11 year old girl (she’s my age!!!). Ok well I’m off to read it again.
Brianna A., Age: 11, Ontario, Rating: 10

I think that the book Orphan at My Door is a wonderful book. I have read it 56 times at my school library but do not own a copy myself. I also wish to collect the entire series myself. Thank you for your time.
Abbey B., Age 12, Alberta, Rating: 8