The Hollow Tree.
Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.
Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.
Reviewed from Uncorrected Proofs
"It was the perfect gesture the Boston patriots made when they threw those chests of tea into the Boston harbour. The perfect gesture!" Papa had slammed his fist down on the heavy wooden table. "The King should know that we cannot, we will not, tolerate taxes on tea or any other goods. If we may not send our elected representatives to the Parliament in Great Britain that makes decisions about our lives, if we are not to be treated like proper British subjects, then, say I, we will no longer be British subjects." He had pounded so hard on the table that the dishes had bounced on the dresser across the room.In this piece of historical fiction which revolves around the American Revolution, Lunn provides a powerful picture of the effects of war on innocent civilians who are caught in the middle of the conflict. Thirteen-year-old motherless Phoebe Olcott is deeply concerned in May of 1775 when her father, Jonathan, announces his intentions to join the Patriots, especially when her beloved cousin Gideon, 17, declares that he will enlist in the Loyalist forces. After her father is killed in one of the revolution's early battles, Phoebe is taken in by Gideon's parents. In the fall of 1777, Phoebe's world is severely shaken when Gideon secretly returns to his community, only to be captured and hanged as a traitorous spy by members of the Patriots' Committee of Public Safety. A distraught Phoebe finds a message from Gideon in the hollow tree, their "mailbox" in more innocent times. While she refuses to take sides in the conflict, Phoebe, out of a sense of loving loyalty to Gideon, decides to honour his message's request that she deliver a coded message to Fort Ticonderoga, a daunting journey of 50 miles through trackless wilderness and mountains. Finally reaching the fort, Phoebe finds it deserted, but there she is befriended by a young man, Jem Morrissay, who invites her to join a group of Loyalists who are making their way to the nearest British fort some 100 miles away in Canada. Among the party, Phoebe discovers Gideon's parents and his younger sister, Anne, who bitterly accuses her of being responsible for Gideon's death. As the Loyalists make their arduous trip northward through rugged, snow covered terrain, they are robbed by soldiers from both sides and encounter measles, then a potentially fatal illness for children. Phoebe's greatest challenge comes when the band of refugees captures a young man whom they believe to be a patriot spy. Fearful that this person will suffer the same fate as her cousin, Phoebe helps him escape, knowing that her action means she will have to complete the journey alone. Despite the trials and sorrows which seem to dog Phoebe's every footstep, Lunn ultimately provides her with a happy ending, and the "Epilogue" will offer a delightful surprise to readers of Lunn's Shadow in Hawthorn Bay.
"If it be necessary," he had finished slowly and unexpectedly softly, "every American who cares for the rights of free men must perforce go to war."
Like the best of historical fiction, Lunn imbeds her plot and theme in unobtrusive historical detail while providing particulars which make the period come alive to all of the reader's senses.
Dave Jenkinson teaches children's and adolescent literature courses at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - OCTOBER 17, 1997.
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