Author Connie Brummel Crook brings a Canadian legend to life
by Erin Woods
Canada’s youngest publisher is off to a strong start. Pajama Press is an independent children’s publisher that handles everything from picture books to non-fiction to YA novels, and it’s ringing in its second season with a historical novel that comes just in time for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration.
Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 is written by established historical fiction author Connie Brummel Crook (The Nellie McLung Trilogy, The Meyers Saga). It dramatizes the life of Laura Secord from her childhood to her famous trek through the Canadian wilderness during the war of 1812.
Crook marries fact with fancy in her fictional account of a childhood acquaintance between Secord and Fitzgibbon, hooking young readers’ interest through the relationship as she weaves in accurate historical accounts of Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts, tensions between Loyalists and settlers in the Niagara region, Joseph Brant’s struggling Mohawk settlement, and of course, the war. History enthusiasts will appreciate the strong presence of James Fitzgibbon in this narrative, though most of his interactions with Secord are fictional. While Canadian folklore has given Laura Secord an honoured place, it has granted less attention to the wily guerilla commander who used her warning to capture an American force much larger than his own without any bloodshed. This novel gives a full account of Fitzgibbon’s contribution to the Battle of Beaver Dams, including quotations attributed to him by several historical sources listed at the end of the book.
Readers will find Acts of Courage useful as the only juvenile fiction title being released in honour of the bicentennial this spring. It makes history accessible and interesting, and while the unexpected chronological gaps between chapters can be disorienting at first, they happen consistently enough to preserve the narrative’s flow.
Acts of Courage presents Laura Secord as an appealing and believable character. Her lack of tolerance for foolish people is softened by her generosity; her unfulfilled longing for her girlhood friend Red (Fitzgibbon in disguise) is made more pure by her loyalty to her husband. Young readers will appreciate Secord’s humanity as she struggles with real emotions like resentment, fear and reluctance to make difficult decisions. Her ultimately courageous choices are inspiring and demonstrate why this woman has become one of Canada’s most beloved heroines.