A 12-year-old French-Canadian girl learns to feel differently about her family’s economic status.
Aline Sauriol is ashamed that she can’t bring in pennies when the nuns at school are collecting for the poor. She’s ashamed of the house she lives in, in one of the poorer areas of Ottawa, and is embarrassed that, in 1942, her father takes her to school in a horse-drawn conveyance instead of a motorcar. When her family rents out their upstairs to a family from London, she resents their wealth, their ease with English, their Protestantism. She’s nasty to the one girl at school who seems worse off than herself, and she steals money from her mother and spends it on candy. Eventually Aline learns that others are not always as well off as they seem, and she comes to appreciate her family’s love and security. Unfortunately, there is a mismatch between Aline and her audience. Her understanding of the world, her emotional responses, and her ultimate growth all seem to belong to a much younger girl, as if she were 8 instead of 12. As it is, she’s barely likable. The wartime setting never feels important to the story or especially realistic. The story adheres to a white default, without mention of First Nations people or other racial minorities, although the portrayal of a French-Canadian family is a rare event in itself.
Smoothly written but with a one-note protagonist and not much action. (Historical fiction. 8-12)