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Publisher: Toronto: Stoddart Kids Publishing, 1995. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
Cover Art: David Craig
Summary: This book tells the story of the Meyers family’s harrowing escape from enemy forces during the American Revolutionary War to a new life in Canada. While their father is leading dangerous missions for the British, George, the oldest son, and his sister Mary have many exciting adventures in defending their family.
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“. . . a most enjoyable tale of danger and intrigue from . . . the early days of Canada’s history.” — Roy Bonisteel, Author/Broadcaster. “Author captures history of city’s founding father ” —Henry Bury, The Intelligencer (Belleville)
“. . . Connie Brummel Crook has found the perfect marriage of language, history and magnificent storytelling and her young readers are quick to applaud its success.” — The Register (Norwood)
“. . . Although the British Loyalists are, without a doubt, the heroes in these books, the stories include the feelings of people fighting on both sides as well as the differences between the “ordinary” citizen and the people in the military and government groups whose decisions were so far reaching. . . . the historical detail and writing proficiency . . . make the reader believe the characters enough to become involved in their story and the portrayal of significant human problems which are not restricted to one generation.” — Jacolyn Caton, The Regina Sun.
Part One: Dangerous Journeys
Part Two: Coping
Part Three: North to Canada Chapter One
George jumped up on the fence and looked his father straight in the eye. “We have to talk.”
“Well, what is it?” said Hans Waltermyer, who put down his scythe to walk to the edge of the field when he saw his son running towards him.
“Rebel troops have moved into Albany. And there are rumours the British are coming to attack. When are you going to pledge allegiance to the cause?”
“Pledge allegiance to the cause? Which cause are you talking about?”
“The Rebel cause, of course. You surely don’t think I’d take the side of the British Redcoats. All the boys at school are cheering for the Rebels.”
“Well, it’s not my battle, George. The best I can do for the cause is grow food because people on both sides need to eat. And I can’t see either side attacking us on the farm.”
“Both sides! Both sides! That’s the problem. We can’t be on both sides!” George flushed almost as red as his hair, which was only a shade lighter than his father’s.
“You can’t believe rumours, George. The war isn’t here, yet. It’s far away in Boston and other cities. The people there, the Whigs and the Tories, are fighting each other. And I don’t intend to leave your mother and the rest of you and go off to battle.”
Something unexpected happens which causes George’s father (Hans Waltermyer – later known as John Meyers) to leave that very evening to join the British cause. George and his brother Tobias and sister Mary wake up to smell smoke and go to investigate the cause and their father’s sudden disappearance.
The three crawled along the rail fence to get a closer look at the fire. The Vandervoot’s barn was burning.
A crowd of men came into sight; their voices were drowned out by the sounds of screaming farm animals running loose in the yard. Many of the men still held torches. A few were holding up clenched fists and shaking them at the Vandervoot’s house. As they drew closer, George could clearly make out some of the faces. They were people he knew. The father and brother of his school-friend Reuben were there, and so were the Sagers, Junior and Senior. They looked as angry as the others and they too were carrying torches. Flames were now leaping through the gaping holes in the sides and roof of the barn.
The three inched their way farther along the fence and took shelter under the gnarled apple tree that stood not far from the house on the edge of the Vandervoot’s dooryard. George looked at Mary and Tobias. A shadow had fallen over them.
Then he looked up into the apple tree and squinted. Something was swaying on the largest branch. Suddenly he realized it was a man hanging lifelessly by his wrists. His body was smeared with stinking tar. The feathers sticking to the tar rustled stiffly in the breeze.
George’s mother and her seven children flee by stages to New York City, a stronghold of the British. George is left behind, and has to make his own way from his grandparents’ farm to the city to join his family. On the way, he encounters partisans and is captured by a group of them, the Cowboys.
In Part Two, Father has become a spy and a courier for the British. The children – mainly George and his sister Mary – have many dangerous and exciting adventures. Father visits them fewer times as the war continues, and he becomes busier. George is loyal to the family but does not always agree with his father. On his last visit, Father talks with George. They will not meet again until after the war, in Canada.
“Yes, I know you are leaving in the morning. I want to go too. I’ll be one of your recruits. I know there are fourteen-year-olds in the army.”
“Yes, there are, George. Some of them are orphans and some have followed their fathers, but you have a family who need you here. Your mother needs you. I can’t be with them, so you have to stay. Please promise me, George, that you’ll not run away and leave them.”
Suddenly George’s resentment flared. Why should he have to take care of the family? That was his father’s job, not his. He turned to his father and said, “I’ll stay if I must. I’ll not run away the way you did!”
A silence followed. George had not intended to say those words. But he wouldn’t take them back now. After all, they were true. Finally, he looked sideways at his father.
There was no anger in his father’s face or in his voice when he spoke. “I had no choice, George,” he said. “I didn’t . . . I don’t want to be on the run all the time the way I am.”
“No choice! You could have joined the Rebels like all our neighbours!”
“Could I? Could I ignore what they did to Vandervoot, a good man, and our neighbour too? Could I pretend the British had done us harm?”
George felt the emotion in his father’s voice and he looked down as he said, “There were atrocities on both sides. Grandfather told me about some of the Redcoats’ murders.”
Father replied quietly, “I believe that, but they did not happen on my doorstep like Vandervoot’s hanging. I could not be a part of that. I did what I had to do. Afterwards I no longer had a choice. Life often doesn’t have as many choices as we think it’s going to.”
George did not answer. They walked on in silence.
Finally his father spoke, “Some day you’ll understand, George.”
George doubted that, but he didn’t answer. There was no point in arguing any more. After all, his father was leaving in the morning.
In Part Three, the family escapes to Canada, but an important member of this family is left behind.. .