Susanna Merritt is 11 years old when she hears talk of yet another war. The youngest daughter in a family of "late loyalists" living in the Niagara region of Upper Canada, Susanna knows too well the heartache war can bring. Throughout her childhood she has heard her parents' terrifying stories about the American Revolution, not to mention their English servant's tales of the Napoleonic wars. Unlike her older brother, Hamilton, Susanna has no wish to exchange the dull simplicity of life on the Merritt farm (near what is now St. Catharines, Ontario) for the excitement of a military campaign against her parents' former homeland.
In Whispers of War, an intelligently written novel intended for middle readers, Kit Pearson creates a compelling and convincing portrait of a young girl caught up in Britain's prolonged feud with France as it came to be played out in North America. Not only does the War of 1812 disrupt Susanna's schooling, but it results in the temporary loss of her best friend and divides loyalties in her own family. Yet the confusion of warfare also opens unexpected doors. Susanna befriends the young ward of Isaac Brock, the famous British general, and in the novel's pivotal scene, she helps buckle on his sword before the Battle of Queenston Heights.
Author of the modern Canadian classics The Sky Is Falling and The Daring Game, Pearson masterfully evokes the world of a child in the "Canada" of the early 1800s. Readers of this superb addition to Scholastic's Dear Canada series will enjoy Susanna's matter-of-fact descriptions of making ink from beet juice and preparing syllabub (a rich 19th-century dessert) under a cow. Pearson modeled her appealing heroine on her own great-great-great-grandmother, who, legend has it, really did put on General Brock's sword. (Ages 9 to 13) --Lisa Alward