Title: Full Steam to Canada
Author: Anne Patton
Publisher: Coteau Books
Age Range: Children (9+)
Time Period: 1903
It’s 1903 and Dorothy Bolton and her family are sailing to Canada! The plan to become farmers int he middle of the Canadian prairie – even though they’ve never lived on a farm. The Reverend Issac Barr will help them get started. Or so they hope.
When their ship leaves England and steams across the ocean, Dorothy knows her life has changed forever. While her family falls victim to seasickness, she explores the decks, meets new friends and finds a freedom she’s never known.
Based on a true story, Full Steam to Canada follows the adventures of the Bolton family through the experiences of their 10 year old daughter affectionately called Dodie. Growing up in turn-of-the-century England, life for the Bolton family is pretty typical – work, school, housekeeping – until their father suggests they move to Canada. Offering large expanses of workable land in the “North-West Territories” (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), the draw is huge. It takes some effort to convince Mam, but before long they are all packed up and heading out to a whole new world.
I was so intrigued by this story, honestly never having seriously thought about the experience or emotions involved with immigrating – leaving everything behind to a place that’s completely unknown in an attempt to find a new and better life.
It was really interesting to see the differences showcased between the expectations of boys and girls – the “act like a lady” and “boys will be boys” attitudes that prevailed heavily in this time period. For example, after one escapade where Dodie and her new found friend, Victor take off on arriving in Canada to explore for a bit – Dodie is dragged to the Reverend on board who makes her write apologetic letters, chastises her for her seeming behaviour, and reminds her of the Biblical commandments to obey her parents. Victor, on the other hand, has seemingly no consequence because his father felt it was a typical boy behaviour.
I love Dodie’s character – a slightly stubborn and rebellious young girl who wants nothing more than to be free from the shackles of society. It’s fun to watch her develop into a responsible young girl through the journey. Her wonder and excitement really help bring of life the experience of being stuck in a ship across the ocean and travelling across Canada in a passenger train.
This book is a fresh and interesting read.
Note: One of the passengers on the train is a heavily pregnant lady. I was a little surprised that young Dodie didn’t know about pregnancy at all and that it was a secret discussion that embarrassed her mother and sister, telling her she was too young to know about it. At the end of the book, the woman gives birth – although in a separate location from Dodie, but she’s able to hear some of what goes on.