Dear Canada: A step back in time

BOOKS

A Prairie as Wide as the Sea

A Prairie as Wide as the Sea
The Immigrant Diary of Ivy Weatherall

By Sarah Ellis

ISBN: 978-0-439-98833-9 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-443-11334-2 Ebook
208 pages | Ages 8-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

Ivy Weatherall and her family leave a comfortable life in London for the promised riches of Canada's expanding West. Expecting to make their fortunes on Uncle Alf's ranch, the Weatheralls are shocked to find themselves living in a sod hut on a rented farm. Ivy is determined to taste life to the fullest, whatever hardships she may encounter. Writing in her diary, she recounts learning the new skills expected of a young farm girl. She struggles to help the family survive, but ultimately learns that responsibility brings its rewards.

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From Ivy's diary:

May 1, 1926
107 Halley Road, Forest Gate,
London, England

My name is Ivy Doris Weatherall. I am eleven years old. This is the first diary I have ever had. Auntie Lou gave it to me because she said that I was starting the greatest adventure of my life and I should record it. The greatest adventure is that we are emigrating to Canada. Auntie Lou also gave me a fountain pen. I am going to use my best penmanship and I am going to write every day. She also gave me a book called Lost in the Backwoods, which is a Canadian story. Auntie Lou is the kindest relative. I wish she were coming to Canada too.

We leave tomorrow. All our things are packed into trunks and hampers. We are camping in our house. Tonight all the relatives are coming to say goodbye. I can't wait until tomorrow. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it be now. I wish I were a conjurer. I would pull tomorrow out of a hat. Mother just came and said I should go down to the pub and fetch Dad. He's saying goodbye to his mates. I told her I was busy recording the greatest adventure of my life and why couldn't William go. She said I was being cheeky and I had five minutes and then she wanted to see the back of me going out the door.

So now I am just going to write some facts. We are Mother, Dad, William (14), me, and the twins, Harry and Gladys (6). We are emigrating to Milorie, Saskatchewan, where our Uncle Alf has a ranch. A ranch is like a farm with horses and cows, but much grander.

Secret promise: When I grow up I'm not going to forget what it was like being a child, like almost all grown-ups seem to.

One sad thing about emigrating is that we have to leave Chivers behind. Cats aren't allowed to emigrate. I gave him to Ethel next door.

May 13
On the train, in Canada

Today Dad got out his Canada West booklet and read us bits. This is the booklet that tells us everything we need to know. It has a lovely coloured cover with a picture of a farmer holding an armful of grain in one hand and a fat baby in the other. The baby is holding a carrot as big as his head. First of all Dad read us the stories of people who got rich in Canada. One man arrived with 27¢ and now he has 200 acres of wheat and 20 cows. Another man made $5000 (that's more than £1000!) in one year fattening pigs. Then Dad told us what amusements there are in Canada, like hockey, football and tobogganing. I just can't wait for winter for snow.

The booklet said that "distance and isolation have disappeared" because of the radio. (That's Canadian for wireless.) I hope Uncle Alf has one. Then Dad read about how a man who has health, industry and good habits will be a sure success and how that sounded just like him. Mother snorted. He told us that luggage is called baggage, that a three-strand barbed wire fence costs $150 a mile and that there is absolutely no malaria in Canada.

Then William got larky and took over and read the tiny print on the inside of the cover that tells you who isn't allowed into Canada. They are vagrants, idiots and anarchists. (They forgot to say cats.) Harry said what's an anarchist. Mother said they blow things up and Harry said he wanted to be an anarchist. Dad said that was fine as long as nobody told the minister of immigration. The best words were "persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority." This could be a useful insult. The twins practised saying it, over and over again, until Mother made them stop. Then they mouthed the words without saying them.

May 14

I just saw a bear! He was black and about the size of a fat man. He ran around behind a rock before I could tell the twins. I've also seen two kinds of birds with long necks. And a beaver lodge. The nice conductor told us about the beaver lodge. Otherwise I might have thought it was just a pile of sticks.

The conductor talks Canadian. He sounds like Ethel's uncle that came over from America.

This is not a pretty place. At least not in spring. There are big lumps of dead grass. It looks like the top of porridge when it is boiling. And patches of dirty snow. I can't imagine walking across it.

From Dear Canada: A Prairie as Wide as the Sea, copyright © 2001 by Sarah Ellis.

YOUR REVIEWS:

I really, truly enjoyed this book. It gives you a really clear example on how immigrants lived, and I felt a connection to Ivy. I want more Dear Canada books like this one to come out, soon!!
Nikki W., Age 13, U.S.A., Rating: 9

I love this book soooooooooo much. It is so well described every time I read it it's like I am Ivy struggling to have a life in a strange country.
Alexandra, Age 13, Alberta, Rating: 10

This book was great for anyone!!!!!!!!!
Nicholas C., Age 10, Alberta, Rating: 10

Being a prairie girl... the book was the most interesting. My Grandmother had told me about the series and Ifound some in my library.
Jacelyn P., Age 11, Saskatchewan, Rating: 10

I LOVE THIS BOOK! It is one of my favourites of all time, and I connect to it a little bit because my great-grandma came to Canada just the year before Ivy did.
Joanna S., Age 11, Manitoba, Rating: 10

This book is so good. I got to learn a lot about prairies and immigrants.
Isabella B., Age: 9, British Columbia, Rating: 9

This is an amazing book. It has a great story line. Ivy comes to Canada and has ups and downs.
Lisa V., Age: 9, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book was one of the best Dear Canada books I've read! Ivy seems similar to me in many ways.
Georgia C., Age: 10, Ontario, Rating: 10

This had to be the best book I have ever read in this series. Its' so funny and not sad so great if you're looking for something fun to read. I hope she keeps writing. Thanks.
Lindsey D., Age 12, Alberta, Rating: 10