One thing about Young Adult and Middle-Grade books is that they are pretty much guaranteed to be both entertaining and informative. Such is the case with Anne C. Kelly’s Jacques’ Escape (2019, Trap Door Books), a story about Jacques Terriot and his Acadian family who find themselves in the middle of a controversy as to what the English are to do with them, now that Acadia is in British hands. They are viewed as possible traitors (since they were originally from France and still speak French), despite the fact they have pledged to remain neutral. Not satisfied with having the Acadians living amongst them, and wanting the land for themselves, the British decide to ship them away to other countries (see map).
As you can see, they were sent to Europe, to the Caribbean, and to points all along the eastern seaboard of North America. The Terriot family (most of them, anyway) end up in Massachusetts where they are housed and fed in return for working on a farm.
Jacques is about fourteen and he is an angry young man. Even before being deported, he tried to run away to join the French forces as his older brother Étienne did earlier. His family has never heard of Étienne since, but Jacques is sure he is in the thick of the fighting. Jacques’ Papa tries to explain to him the futility of war, but Jacques will have none of it, even calling his own father a chicken!
Papa studied Jacques’ face. “So many people killed, and for what? It changed nothing in the end.” He turned away and went back into the house.
Jacques’ hands trembled, as he threw the stump back on the woodpile. His eyes stung as he blinked back tears. He’s a coward,” he muttered, “just like Étienne said. Scared of the noise…” His chest ached. From inside the house he could hear his year-old sister, Marguerite, giggling at Maman’s singing as she set the table. Smoke trickled out of the chimney along with the sweet smell of porridge.
Jacques turned and ran into the field like an escaping prisoner.
Jacques is soon caught and returned to his family before being deported.
In Massachusetts, they work for Mr. Thompson, a widower with a daughter, Elizabeth who is about Jacques’ age. It is not until Jacques sees that they too face adversity and suffer from having to work so hard that he mellows toward them, but grudgingly.
What I learned from Jacques’ Escape was more about the life of Acadians in New England. They were not always welcome by the populace. Note this exchange between Mr. Thompson and Jacques:
“The people of Massachusetts Bay believe in fairness and compassion for all.”
Jacques didn’t understand all the words, but Mr. Thompson sounded bitter.
“We didn’t want you here,” the farmer continued. “But now that you are, we are trying to do what is right for you.”
“Even for heretics?”
Elizabeth’s father turned to look at her. She blushed and stared at the floor. “My daughter isn’t as careful with her tongue as she should be,” Mr. Thompson replied.
“But we believe God calls us to be fair to all men.” He touched Jacques’ arm. “We are not your enemies.”
Oh yes, you are, Jacques thought.
Too, the ships they were deported on could be refused entry into a port by the authorities. This almost happened to the ship the Terriots were on. On the farm, Jacques is still angry and wants to escape back to Nova Scotia, still hoping to fight with the French troops.
Ms. Kelly is an English Language Learning Coordinator at the Bedford Library and she has likely written Jacques’ Escape with a broader audience in mind. Sure, it teaches an important part of colonial history, the futility of war and the need to embrace other cultures (while maintaining your own). However, Jacques’ Escape can be used by those for whom English is a second language, many of whom are displaced persons themselves, such as the recent intake of Syrian refugees by Canada. Ms. Kelly’s message is one of tolerance despite hatred and oppression. I hope she continues to write more historical novels like this one. With some accompanying illustrations by Helah Cooper.
Jacques’ Escape by Anne C. Kelly
Trap Door Books (an imprint of Nevermore Press)
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2oE2dHf Thanks!