Resource Links Review - Through Flood and Fire
Reviewed by: Myra Junyk
On April 26, 1903, 10 year old Dorothy Bolton and her family begin the perilous journey from their tent in the tiny village of Saskatoon to the remote Barr colony. After a difficult sea voyage from England, the Bolton family wants to reach their promised homestead. "Dorothy knew all about Mr. Barr's pledge to build a proper British community: church, school, hospital and community hall for plays and operas." (p. 4) These promises were the reason 2000 people left England for Canada.
However, their journey is not an easy one. Her mother is left behind in Saskatoon to care for Rose Thorpe, an ailing four-year old with scarlet fever. Dorothy, her sister Lydia and her father set out to claim their homestead. On the way, they encounter great difficulties: runaway horses, snakes, floods, storms, sprains, fires and wind. Throughout all these difficulties, the family realizes how important it is to love and depend on each other. When they finally reach their destination, they are greeted with an empty prairie. They have to dig up the sod to build their new home!
Through Flood & Fire is a good example of a novel that can introduce young readers to important historical events. The settlement of the Prairies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a critical turning point in Canadian history. The provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were settled by courageous immigrants. The events in this novel are fiction; however, they are based on the experiences of Dorothy Holtby who told her story to Anne Patton in 1983, "At nine years old Dorothy had been plucked from her familiar urban life in England and thrust into the rigours of widnerness survival." (p. 197) There are very useful text features in this book such as maps, illustrations, photographs, a glossary and a list of expressions used in Yorkshire dialect. Patton's novel brings a very human face to an important aspect of Canadian history, and it would be a wonderful addition to any school library to complement the study of the settlement of the Prairies in the early 20th century.
Thematic Links: Saskatchewan History; Immigration; Settlement on the Prairies; Survival; Family Relationships