________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 37. . . .May 29, 2015


A Hanging Offence.

Don Cummer.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2015.
202 pp., trade pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-3908-3.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-War of 1812-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Libby McKeever.

*** /4



A cannon booms in the distance. Someoneís still fighting back there. Crows flap overhead toward the battlefield. I can hear them caw, beyond the ringing in my ears.

I hear the slop, slop, slop of my own shoes through mud, and a squirrel who nags from a branch. No sounds of birds now Ė strangely silent. Left, right, left, right.

ThenÖMoccasined feet block my path.

I look up.

A face painted and hideous. Red and black. Feathers. Bear claws.

I shout so loud my soul will surely chase after my voice. A musket bars my way.


Sworn blood brothers, Jake and Eli, were separated by differing loyalties when Eliís father moved his family back over the Niagara River to America. It is now 1812, and the Americans have joined with the New York militia in their goal to gain a foothold in Canada. The army crosses over the Niagara, and the two countries are suddenly at war, pitting lifelong friends and neighbours in a deathly battle to win ground and protect homeland.

     Against his fatherís wishes, Jake becomes embroiled in the fight after he stows onboard a wagon and finds himself following General Brock into battle. When the General is killed and Jakeís father is captured in the turmoil, Jake is stunned to discover that his fatherís guard is none other than his blood brother, Eli. In his effort to flee, Jake falls in with the local band of Mohawks who have joined the British-Canadians in the fight. The Canadianís eventually win the battle, but when it is discovered that Eli had sworn the oath of allegiance to the Crown before he left Canada, his involvement with the bluecoats makes him a traitor. Eli is charged with high treason, but once Jake assures himself that his father is safe, his goal is now to try and save Eli from being hung from the gallows.

     A Hanging Offence, the sequel to Don Cummerís Brothers at War, is an exciting historical tale that takes young readers back to the War of 1812 when America invaded Upper Canada and friendships were tested as neighbours needed to decide where their true loyalties lay. Cummer has delivered a suspenseful, well-written novel as he continues to trace the adventures of Jake and Eli against a backdrop of the first major battle in the War of 1812. Cummerís characters are well-drawn within a deeper backdrop of story. The author achieves this through characters who find themselves ensnared in old conflicts with childhood bullies as well as the confusing complexities of new relationships. Cummer once again has captured this segment of Canadian history in a way that is both meaningful and enjoyable for readers. The novel would be a good companion to grade 5-7 social studies curriculum.

     Don Cummerís short story, ďThe Burying GroundsĒ won The Writers' Union of Canada Writing for Children Competition in 2012. Brothers at War was his first novel, followed by this sequel, A Hanging Offence.


Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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