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W.J. Scanlan

Toronto, Stoddart Publishing, 1989. 152pp, cloth, $19.95
ISBN 0-7737-2271-8. CIP

Grades 7 to 9/ages 12 to 14
Reviewed by David H. Elias.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Caught up in the Riel Rebellion of 1885, fifteen-year-old Jack Rawlins, son of English settlers, falls into the hands of Gabriel Dumont and the Metis. He starts out as a prisoner, but soon joins the rebel forces. We follow him through the rites of passage to man­hood set against the backdrop of one of the more colourful events in Canadian history.

If the book is meant to portray an accurate account of the events and characters that made up the Riel Rebellion, then it succeeds. Mr. Scanlon has woven an historically accurate account of the rebellion into his first novel. There are some well-written descriptive passages, including one of Louis Riel himself.

But if it is also intended to involve the reader emotionally in the tumult of those times, then it fails. Young male readers may respond to Jack Rawlins at the most basic level (he is brave, he meets a pretty girl, he fights alongside his hero), but he suffers from a serious lack of depth.

For example, when young Jack shoots and kills a Cree brave (who was armed only with a tomahawk) the author gives us this glimpse into Jack's emotional response: "His life's blood was pouring out, bright red on the white snow. I felt very empty, and I knew the picture of that dead Cree warrior would be with me forever." Then, without another word, it's on to the next adventure.

And that's the problem with this book. It reads too much like a chronicle of war, and not enough like a novel. Jack turns out to be a stock character, but he has the potential to be so much more. Still, if teachers want their stu­dents to learn about the Riel Rebellion, this book presents an alternative to reading about it in a textbook.

David H. Elias, Bernie Wolfe School, Winnipeg, Man.
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