________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005


Sophie's Rebellion.

Beverley Boissery.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Books/Dundurn, 2005.
224 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 1-55002-566-X.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Rebellion, 1837-1838-Juvenile fiction.

Grade 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Michelle Superle.

* /4



It was slow going. Sophie felt her way along the track, taking baby steps to avoid nasty surprises. There were no guards now to warn about low branches, and she found herself on her backside a time or two after hitting a low branch. The third time this happened she remained where she was on the ground. Her head ached and she gradually realized that she had probably made the most idiotic decision of her life by trying to escape. She really was stupid like Elias claimed because she really had no idea where she was. Self-pity almost overwhelmed her and she felt like giving

up. . . .

She stumbled to her feet, held on to a tree for balance, and stamped her feet as hard as she could. … she … was just beginning to feel the tiniest bit normal when a sudden sound made her freeze into immobility again.

The noise was too purposeful for an animal, she decided. It sounded as though someone was hunting, combing the bushes alongside the track with a frightening thoroughness.


In a unique view of the Rebellion of 1838, Beverley Boissery tells the story of Sophie and Luc, two young people caught up in the frightening events of this pivotal Canadian political situation. Sophie has come to Canada from England to live with her father and soon-to-be-stepmother. Life in Canada is harder than she expected: Sophie's father is distant, the rest of her family unwelcoming. The only person she connects with is Luc who becomes caught up in the fight for freedom. Little does Sophie know how intensely her life will become intertwined with Luc's. When she becomes tangled in the frightening events of the rebellion, Luc comes to her aid countless times. Finally, towards the end of the story, Sophie has the chance to help Luc. Sophie's Rebellion traces the events of the Rebellion and Sophie's involvement with it, as well as its impact on her own family.

     While Boissery clearly has a passion for her material and period, she has not managed to make this story come alive. Canadian historical fiction for children has come a long way in the past decade or so. Although not without its problems, Scholastic's “Dear Canada” series has brought vigor and excitement to the genre. The books in this series truly do make history come alive. In disappointing contrast, Sophie's Rebellion is dull and factual. This book seems a regression to the plodding Canadian history series of yesteryear. Sophie's Rebellion seems to exist primarily to explore a certain historical episode, rather than to tell a story.

     As a result, the characters seem flat and wooden. There is nothing compelling about Sophie and Luc; we never really get to know them, and, therefore, it is difficult to become truly invested in their fates. While Boissery very competently shows how political events change Sophie, her family, and her perception of her relationships with family members, there is nothing in the story that truly makes the rebellion “Sophie's.” Further, the plot is cluttered with an overabundance of plodding detail. And, although there should be intensity and urgency in the frightening events of the rebellion, Sophie's Rebellion seems to treat every plot twist with an unimpassioned matter-of-factness. The extraneous details detract from a core story that has the potential to be very exciting. For example, if the story started on page 85, it would have a much greater capacity to grip the reader.

     Sadly, this story does not deliver particularly revealing truths about the nature of war, life, or survival. It seems mostly a vehicle for chronicling facts about daily life and historical events in 1838. Neither the plot nor the characters provide enough stimulation to truly compel readers.


Not Recommended.

Michelle Superle (formerly Warry) obtained her Master of Arts in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia. She has taught courses in Children's Literature at the University College of the Fraser Valley and through Capilano College's Continuing Education program.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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