________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


A Rebel’s Daughter: The 1837 Rebellion Diary of Arabella Stevenson. (Dear Canada).           

Janet Lunn.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2006.
201 pp., cloth, $14.99.
ISBN 0-439-96967-0.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Rebellion, 1837-1838-Juvenile fiction.
Children of prisoners - Juvenile fiction.
Self-reliance - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Jean Nickel.

*** /4


Wednesday night, 11 April, 1838

Papa said he did not know what would happen to him. He said that Mr. Christopher Hagerman was “a stiff man without a drop of kindness in his blood” but that Mr. Robert Baldwin is the barrister defending the rebels and he is a good man, and that Chief Justice Robinson, who is the judge in all the trials, is a just man. (The man who writes Mrs. P.’s newspaper does not think that.) Papa said he knew that cousin Matthews and the others are to be hanged in spite of Chief Justice R. but Mr. B does not believe that will happen to any others.


A Rebel’s Daughter is the diary of Arabella Stevenson, age 12, whose father participated in the rebellions of Upper Canada in 1837 with William Lyon Mackenzie. Janet Lunn tells this story from the perspective of a pampered upper class society young lady, Arabella Stevenson. Her father is captured and sent to gaol, her brother disappears, and her mother, who should be taking care of her, falls apart and takes to her room. Their house and belongings are sold, and they move into an apartment. Arabella’s mother has never functioned without a maid, and the very next day she sells her emerald broach to hire a maid for herself. As a result, she moves the maid into Arabella’s room, and Arabella must move out and fend for herself.

     Arabella goes to her father’s business partner, Mr. Dewhurst, and he finds her a position as a scullery maid with a family of one of her former classmates. She discovers the meaning of hard work and how it feels to be treated as a servant. Arabella has the ability to read and write due to her schooling. Mrs. P. is the mother of her employer’s wife, and she requests Arabella read to her once a week. A friendship develops between them, and Mrs. P. helps Arabella come to terms with her situation. She comes to see that her father did what he thought was best, and, as Arabella matures, she comes to realize that she would like to stay in Upper Canada. Mr. Dewhurst has contacted her mother’s family in England, and she could return, with her mother, to a much easier life if she chooses. Her father, due to his role in the rebellions, is shipped to Van Diemen’s Land.

     Janet Lunn has written this story from a young girl’s perspective in a diary format. I find the books in the “Dear Canada” series is always circulating and that these books provide young girls in the grade 5 to 8 level with an entertaining look at history. This specific contribution to the series gives good detail surrounding this historical event, and readers learn how one family’s fall from grace changed their lives forever. The last chapter provides a good ending by telling what became of the characters in the story. There is also a historical note along with photographs from the era, maps showing Upper and Lower Canada in 1837 and the landmarks and sites of the skirmishes, plus a note about the author.


Jean Nickel is a library technician at the Westglen School in Didsbury, AB.


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

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