Dear Canada: A step back in time


Where the River Takes Me

Where the River Takes Me
The Hudson's Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair

By Julie Lawson

ISBN: 978-0-545-95620-8 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2406-5 Ebook
224 pages | Ages 9-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

Orphan Jenna Sinclair lives with her prim aunt Grace, who always finds fault with her high spirits and tendency to break the rules. She finds a kindred spirit in her Grandmother, one of the Home Guard Cree who lives near Fort Edmonton and with her friend Suzanne, but soon she moves south to Fort Colvile. She begs her aunt to let her attend a "real" school at Fort Victoria on Vancouver's Island. With a small brigade, she beings a sometimes harrowing journey down rivers and over mountains to her new life. But even there, Jenna is restless. She sneaks outside the fort walls, spying on the Company officers, even visiting the forbidden Songhees village . . . sometimes finding more than she bargained for.

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From Jenna's diary:

Fort Edmonton
Friday, August 31, 1849

I begin with an Adventure!

This morning Suzanne and I walked out to the lake where her cousins were fishing, and made off with their ponies!

Oh, mon dieu, already I am guilty of Exaggeration, for we did not take the ponies, but did sneak up on them with great stealth and daring to see if we could touch them without the boys' noticing—and we succeeded! If we were not forbidden to ride the ponies, we could have ridden them anywhere! (And if we knew how.)

The boys were so engaged in their fishing we then succeeded in sneaking up on them—but ran off before their embarrassment at having been caught unawares turned to anger.

Off we ran to untie our imaginary ponies. Then we and galloped like mischief across the wide-open prairie, our hair flying in the wind and our voices bursting forth with wild whoops of victory!

And now I am thinking, if only we had broken the rule and taken the boys' ponies, even to sit on one for a moment, for I may never have another chance—because Aunt Grace is getting married and we are moving to another Fort!

Mon dieu, what an extraordinary day. An Adventure (of sorts) followed by two surprising announcements.

I have been waiting for such a day, when something happens beyond the usual chores, activities and pastimes, the comings and goings of buffalo, Indians, brigades, missionaries and visitors—and now that the day has finally arrived, I have started my brand new Journal. Except mine will be different from the Official Post Journal that is sent to London each year, because instead of writing the Daily Accounts of weather, crops, livestock, provisions, etc., I'm going to write about Adventures.

It's hard to believe that it is almost a year since I found this Journal, when I was sorting through Father's things. At the time I was too shaken by his death to even think of writing, and I should have given it to Aunt Grace, what with paper being so scarce, but the Journal seemed to cry out, "I've been put aside for you, Jenna." Father knew I loved to write, and I think he would have been pleased that the opening pages mark not a sad ending but a new beginning.

Aunt Grace would not approve of my keeping it without asking her permission. In her view it would be akin to stealing—a Misdemeanor of the Gravest Sort—but as she is presently out walking with her husband-to-be, it is safe for me to write without fear of being discovered. I do not want her to mark another Misdemeanor against my name—though perhaps she will clear the slate in celebration of her marriage.

I am wandering off the track (another Misdemeanor), so back to the day's events.

Suzanne and I returned to the Fort in time for Dinner, and spent most of the afternoon in the Home Guard camp helping Nokum and the other women make pemmican. I love being there, close to Nokum, listening to the gossip and stories. Sometimes the women lower their voices to keep the girls from hearing, but it only makes us listen harder!

Aunt Grace is fortunate that she's able to teach to earn her keep, for she would hate making pemmican. She claims that the slightest whiff of melted fat and dried buffalo meat makes her nauseous. It makes me hungry!

When I returned to our quarters to wash for Supper, Aunt took me by the shoulders, her eyes sparkling—yes, sparkling—and said, "Jenna, I am going to marry Mr. Kennedy!"

"Mr. Kennedy the blacksmith?" I was astounded. My uppity aunt, marrying a tradesman? Why would she settle for less than a high-ranking officer?

"The very one!" she says.


"In five days!" she says.

"Five days?"

"Aye, lass!" By then her brogue was getting stronger, a sure sign she was in a state of high excitement. I teased her about it, the way Father used to do, and she laughed and said that if "dear Robbie" had heard the news, his brogue would have been impossible to understand.

True enough! I can imagine him saying, "Nae Lassie, it canna be! Your aunt's finally found a husband to her liking?"

I remember the times he'd introduce her to a suitable bachelor but there was always some fault. Too vulgar! Too homely! Too fond of drink! And Father would laugh and say, "She'll only have an Orkneyman like her brother— handsome, hardworking, thrifty and usually sober."

Now she has her Orkneyman, and does not seem to mind that he is stout and bowlegged. Poor Mr. Kennedy. Does he know about her List of Misdemeanors? Perhaps she will make one for husbands!

Aunt Grace's second big announcement is that we are moving.


"Aye," she says, and tells me to close my gap before the flies move in.

Well, it turns out that Mr. Kennedy has been posted to Fort Colvile. Aunt says it's a good ways away, and our journey will require many weeks of travel. I am certain that each day will bring an Adventure, fit to be recorded in my Journal.

And now I must close, for night has fallen and there is movement afoot in the corridor.

From Dear Canada: Where the River Takes Me, copyright © 2008 by Julie Lawson.


Exciting, full of adventure! This book was great! I loved reading it!
Elaine H., Age: 14, British Columbia Rating: 9

Over the past 7 years (since I was in second grade), I have read 27 of the 29 Dear Canada books. Out of them all, this one was one of my favorites. Where the River Takes Me was very interesting, and had more adventure than the others. I love Dear Canada, and this is definitely one of the best ones.
Phoebe H., Age: 14, Ontario. Rating: 7

I loved this book because Jenna is a misfit, like me! I love a book where the character makes their own adventures when they can't find any.
Alex K., Age: 14, Alberta, Rating: 10

I think that this book is a very interesting and tells the person who is reading it about what most people in 1849 went though. It talks about all the people she met and who her friends and family were. This book tells you were Jenna Sinclair is from and also that her whole family's first language is French and that she was having some trouble how to speak English. The bad thing is that it does not have any really funny parts in it.
Sidney F., Age 12, Alberta, Rating: 6

I really liked this book. It was very adventurous and interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Grailing A., Age 13, New Brunswick, Rating: 9

I really, really liked Where the River Takes Me, because it is full of adventure and surprises! Keep up the good work, Julie Lawson.
Aynslie, Age 9, Quebec, Rating: 10

I loooooove This Book.
Jenna P., Age 8, Alberta, Rating: 9