CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Bill Freeman.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 1984.
138pp., paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-88862-746-7. cloth, $12.95. ISBN 0-88862-747-5. Adventures in Canadian History. CIP.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up

Reviewed by Vivienne Denton.

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

This is the fifth book in Bill Freeman's children's historical fiction series featuring the Bains children. This series, for which Freeman has to date won the 1976 Canada Council Award for Juvenile Literature and the 1984 Vicki Metcalf Award for Children's Literature, is set in Canada in the 1870's. Fourteen-year-old Meg and twelve-year-old Jamie Bains travel in search of work to support their widowed mother and brothers and sisters in Ottawa, their travels leading to new adventures in a different Canadian setting in each book.

The last book in the series, Trouble at Lachine Mill, Lorimer, (1983), left the pair boarding the train for Toronto in search of greener pastures after a period of working in a clothing factory in Montréal. Harbour Thieves takes up their adventures in Toronto, where Meg finds regular employment while Jamie makes money as a newsboy, selling newspapers on the streets. The book is mostly Jamie's adventure and should particularly appeal to boys, who will identify with the young protagonist who rebels against his sister's authority and finds himself in trouble through his desire to join in with his new friends. Jamie becomes part of a group of street boys who get involved with a ring of thieves. Jamie's friends have a camp on the Toronto Islands, which the ring leaders commandeer as a hideout. The story features some exciting episodes in which the boys camp out on the island and escape by rowboat across the harbour.

The plot tends to follow the formula of earlier books, and although the ending in which the children must leave Toronto, has Meg eyeing the possibilities of Hamilton, Windsor, and London, one wonders how long the series can last. In each book, the two young children take up such poor paying work as they can find and are exploited by a criminal element. Following the tried-and-true formula for children's adventure stories, their troubles climax when they help unmask the criminals. The book is illustrated, as are others in the series, with period photographs. Although the formula for this series of children's adventure stories may be wearing thin for the adult, Freeman is a skillful children's writer, and the mixture of historical interest and adventure is sure to please the nine to thirteen age group for whom the book is intended.

Vivienne Denton, Toronto, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works