Prairie Fire Review - Adeline's Dream
Reviewed by: Donna Gamache
Adeline's Dream by Saskatchewan writer Linda Aksomitis is part of the From Many Peoples series, published for young adult readers during Saskatchewan's Centennial. Coteau has planned this four-book series to illuminate life from the viewpoints of children from different cultural groups.
The book begins with the arrival at Qu-Appelle of twelve-year-old Adeline Mueller, her mother and five-year-old brother, Konrad. They have travelled from Germany, first by steamship, then by train from Halifax, in order to join Adeline's father, who had immigrated to Saskatchewan four years before. In Germany, Mr. Mueller had worked for a bank, but after losing his job there, he decided to seek a new life for his family in Saskatchewan.
Adeline (called Linna) barely recognizes her father when he meets them at the train station. His letters had promised a fine new house, but Mr. Mueller's job at the mill--bagging flour and doing the accounts--has not paid enough to save for one. The family's home is a "soddie" built of grass and earth, whitewashed and trimmed with blue, part of a small German settlement of squatters about half a mile south of Qu'Appelle on CPR land.
At first, Linna is resentful that her father has brought them out to live under such conditions. She hopes for a new house, and dreams of growing up to become a great singer. She doesn't care for the flat Saskatchewan prairie of the heat of summer, and she soon learns that many of the townspeople don't care for the immigrant squatters. She does manage to make two friends; Kat, who kives in the squatters' area, and Henry, who lives in town but is also an outsider because he has a clubfoot. With their help, she gradually learns about her new home, but still longs for Germany.
Then new develoments make even their present situation precarious. The mill where her father works is destroyed by fire and her father must find another job. Kat's family moves away, and Linna must face school and bullying from one particular girl, Sarah, without her friend's support. Moreover, there is a movement in town to force the squatters to pay rent or move off the CPR land.
Although Adeline's Dream is fiction, many of the events are true. Author Linda Aksomitis, herself a resident of Qu'Appelle, has skillfully woven historical and geographical details of the German settlement into the story. Young readers will empathize with Linna's resentment and struggles to accept her new home and in turn to be accepted. Adult readers will enjoy the story but will also admire the writing. I particularly enjoyed the fresh similies, seen from the viewpoint of a young person. For example: "[She] began to turn, ever so slowly, like the second hand on Papa's pocket watch." (49) Or: "Only the rolling clouds remained, bumping into one another like children playing tag." (59)
Readers who enjoy this story may want to read the rest of the series. Teachers may want to check out the manuals available for each book. (www.coteaubooks.com/frommanypeoples.html).