CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 9 . . . . January 6, 2006
It is the year 1755, and Cecile Souris and the rest of her mouse family live a life of contentment beneath the floorboards of the Dubois family home. It is a modest existence but a happy one. The Dubois family are part of the lively and flourishing Acadian community at Grand Pré in Nova Scotia. Like all of their neighbours, they work hard, and they throw themselves wholeheartedly into their work of tending the fields and building the great dykes that hold back the relentless tides of the Bay of Fundy. Their pride is fierce, and their spirits are strong. But these Acadian men, women and children do not just work all the time: au contraire! Saturday nights in the Dubois household are reserved for dancing and making merry! After working hard all work, on Saturday nights they bring out the fiddles and the spoons and let the dancing begin. Best of all, they celebrate with a delectable array of traditional foods that fill the house with scrumptious scents (not to mention lots of crumbs!) And all the while, the Souris down below share in their music and laughter and fine feasting. How Cecile loved these Saturday nights when they would kick up their heels and dance until dawn!
But then came the day when the usually bustling Dubois household stood strangely silent. Cecile knew that something must be wrong, and so she and her brother set out to investigate. When they stepped outside, they were greeted with the sounds of the stomping feet of marching soldiers. Things from that time on would never be the same for the Souris family, the Dubois family or any of the Acadian people who had made their homes there on the fertile shores of Grand Pré. Soon one and all were herded onto scary boats and taken far from their homes. The Dubois family, accompanied by the Souris, survived the terrible ordeal and eventually built new lives for themselves in Louisiana. But no matter how well they may have adjusted to their new surroundings, neither the Dubois family nor Cecile and her family ever forgot their true home, the home of their hearts in Grand Pré.
This simplified version of the deportation of the Acadians provides younger children with a basic understanding of the events of this most tragic time in Canadian history. By telling the story from the point of view of Cecile and her mouse family, the author is able to tell this terrible tale in a way that is not too distressing for its audience but which still outlines the essential facts of the matter. And she manages to create a strikingly vivid (if somewhat romanticized) picture of the Acadian people and their sense of sorrow and loss at being torn from the homes that they loved and cherished. The playful, cartoon-like illustrations, although they are disappointingly dark, help depict the joie de vivre that permeates this story. While this book is not a factual account of the expulsion, nor does it give any sense of the political, social or historical context in which these events occurred, it is still a good starting place for a younger group that may be looking at the topic and can serve as a springboard for further discussion and study. It also invites discussion about Acadian culture and its survival to this day. It is, therefore, a worthy book for elementary school library collections.
Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.
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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.