An Arduous Journey for Scottish Settlers Seeking Farms

Lisa Doucet reviews Jacqueline Halsey's Piper (Nimbus Publishing)

Jacqueline Halsey
Nimbus Publishing
(Ages 8-12)

Life is hard for Dougal Cameron and his family as they struggle to eke out a living in their home in the Scottish Highlands. So when Da learns about an opportunity to go to the New World where free plots of land are being given to anyone who is willing to farm them, he believes it is their best hope. But a terrible accident robs Da of the chance to realize his dream of creating a better life for his family in Nova Scotia.

Still grieving the loss of his father, Dougal convinces his Mam that they need to pursue Da’s dream. Soon he and Mam and his three sisters find themselves aboard the Hector, a rotting, overcrowded ship that has been commissioned to take them across the Atlantic.

It’s a voyage filled with heartbreak and sorrow, sickness and storms, hunger and despair. And yet, Dougal, Mam and his sisters cling stubbornly to the hope that brought them this far.

While Halsey grew up in London, England, she has called Nova Scotia home for many years and has written several books for young readers that explore Nova Scotian history.   In this latest work, Halsey vividly depicts the arduous journey that these early settlers endured in order to live free and own their own farms. She brings the sights, sounds and smells of life at sea to life, and through Dougal’s eyes, readers experience the horrific conditions aboard ship and the failing morale of the passengers as sickness and death become a standard part of their days.

Dougal’s determination to learn to play the bagpipes from Johnny Piper helps him to get through the long and lonely days. Readers will empathize with his fear and frustrations as he tries to look after his sisters while his mother tends to the ailing passengers belowship.

Written By

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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