Reviews of The Way Lies North
Dr. Andrea Deakin’s News and Reviews of Children’s Literature
The Way Lies North is set during the American Revolution. Charlotte Hooper and her family are Loyalists. The war has taken the lives of the
Hooper’s three sons. Charlotte's dear friend, Nick, sympathizes with the Revolutionaries, and now the violent activities of the "Sons of Liberty"
threaten not only the family's small home, but also their lives.
In a desperate move the family sets out to trek to the safety of British-held Fort Haldimand. Anything of value that the family has left has been stitched into the petticoats of Charlotte and her mother or hidden in a trench on the family farm. It is a dangerous trek, accompanied by a handful of survivors they pick up on the way, but they are helped by the Mohawk nation. Charlotte learns much from these thoughtful and friendly people and manages, at the last, to repay them for their kindness.
Ms. Baxter has given us a telling portrait of this very ugly side of the American Revolution, and brings before us the suffering and courage of the Loyalists who made their way to a new home in the north. It is a compelling story about decent believable and engaging people struggling to escape the nightmare that the Sons of Liberty made from the revolution. The book describes their courage and determination to make a new life despite all that they had suffered and lost.
Reviewer: Dr. Andrea Deakin
Jean Baxter's historical fiction novel captures the terror and hardships of Loyalists as they fled the Rebel troops during the American Revolution.
It also addresses the divided loyalties that separated families. The novel, written in third person from 15-year-old Charlotte Hooper's point of
view, begins in 1777 as Charlotte and her parents decide to travel north to Fort Haldiman on the shore of Lake Ontario. They leave with great
sorrow after finding the body of Isaac, Charlotte's third older brother, in the ravine by their farm in the Mohawk Valley (an area now known as
the State of New York). Readers meet more Loyalists as the family travels north along with members of the Mohawk nation who assist and guide them.
Baxter creates a mostly credible plot that revolves around Charlotte's estranged relationship with Nick, who is a few years older and not willing to go to war, and Charlotte's responsibility to her parents. Her mother's health is failing, and her father loses three toes due to frost bite. Details of their travels and life at Fort Haldiman after they arrive and are forced to spend the winter in a canvas tent elicit compassion from readers. The pace of the novel maintains interest as does the cast of characters which involves children, other adults, members of the Mohawk and Oneida Nations and both Rebel and British troops.
While this novel could be used as a historical text to bring to life many details of Loyalist history, it does suffer from presentism in the way Charlotte speaks up for women to vote and questions the wedding vows that say she must "obey" her husband.
It would also seem more plausible for the reader if, when Charlotte is captured by the Oneidas, she would have been used as a pawn in negotiating peace between the Mohawk and Oneida nations. Baxter gives her the role of convincing her Oneida captors that she has enough influence with Axe Carrier of the Mohawk that the Oneida bring her supplies to write a letter that brings peace between these two nations, and she is returned to her father unharmed.
A map would helpful for younger readers to follow and understand the route the Loyalists traveled.
The novel reaches a satisfying conclusion for Nick and Charlotte and leaves enough details open for a sequel.
Reviewer: Betty Klassen
KidswwWrite – Sarah’s Stars
The author has done an amazing job of incorporating an enjoyable story with a historical event. By the end of the book you almost feel as though
you’re part of the story and that you really are one of the characters. I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 12, or someone
who’s just looking for a good book to curl up on the couch with.
The Way Lies North is about 15 year-old Charlotte Hooper and her family. Her Loyalist family won’t compromise their beliefs for anything. It just so happens that the fact that they are Loyalists results in them not being welcome in their hometown anymore. Everyday a different family falls victim to the tragic burning of their home, sending the occupants fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The Hooper’s decide that they might as well try to escape to Canada, with hope that they can one day to mend the broken life they now have become accustomed to. This war had already taken all three of her brother’s, making it even harder to say good-bye to her sweetheart, Nick. On their journey they are tested in what seems like every single possible way, from her dad getting hurt, to running extremely low on food and almost being discovered by the enemy numerous times. Will the Hooper family make it safely to Canada and find that it is all that everyone says it is? And will Charlotte see her beloved Nick again or did they say good-bye forever?
I give The Way Lies North four gleaming stars.
“The Way Lies North is a useful addition to historical fiction collections about the United Empire Loyalists and their dangerous treks to Canada.
While the north may have seemed like the “promised land,” we soon find out that for those who abandoned their American homes to stay loyal to the
British, there was much to endure before they were settled again. Like the real Loyalists, Charlotte is a determined character, who learns not
only to cope, but to triumph over the problems she encounters.
Teachers covering this era in Canada’s history will find the novel useful as a supplementary resource. Libraries building their historical fiction collection will find it a good addition.”
Reviewer: Linda Aksomitis
The Loyalist Gazette
The setting, the politics and the plight of the Loyalist are familiar themes. Charlotte’s family, who own a farm in the Mohawk Valley, are forced
out of their home by the Sons of Liberty. Their valuables are stolen or buried in the hope of a future return. Jean Baxter writes a youthful
adventure through young Charlotte’s eyes as she flees with her parents up the Hudson River to Carleton Island. Captured by the immediacy of her
perilous journey, the reader senses the drama of their flight as well as the sights, sounds, and smells of this place and time in the rustic late
Paralleling Charlotte’s adventures are the fortunes and misfortunes of Charlotte’s best friend, Nick Schyler, a young man of peace, who acts as a courier, carrying messages for the British. Through their interactions with the fleeing settlers, Baxter reveals the family life and code of honour among the native Oneida and Mohawk tribes who help the family on their journey. The author skilfully balances between too much historical information and enough facts and dates to keep her storyline plausible. I believe the natural world that Baxter depicts is accurate. A great deal of research must have taken place to recreate Charlotte’s world. This book is of a higher calibre than the usual young adult fiction because of the accurately placed famous people, historic events and detail woven throughout the novel.
Reviewer: Grietje R. McBride
Lane Education Service Book Review Program
We are used to reading historical fictional novels of the Revolutionary War from the revolutionist perspective. But what about from the
loyalist point of view? Canadian author, Jean Rae Baxter does a wonderful job portraying the loyalists’ side of the Revolutionary war through
the eyes of fifteen-year-old Charlotte and her family. Charlotte has already learned to become stronger with the untimely death of her three
brothers during the war. But does she have the strength to help her family get to safety at Fort Haldimand in the North? And worst of all does
she have the strength to overcome her sadness at leaving behind her sweetheart Nick, a revolutionist? Along the way as she escapes violence and
learns to trust and interact with the Mohawk nation who helps her family get to the Fort, she finds out just how strong she is and what an
important part she was meant to play. The portrayal of Charlotte and her family is well written and I felt the author kept her target audience
of Grade 4 and higher in mind. There is one scene in the novel where Charlotte and her family during their escape north run into some unscrupulous
men who try to take “advantage” of Charlotte but she is saved by a more rational man in the group. The novel of course also deals with war,
violence and death, but there in nothing gratuitous about how those topics are handled. I gave this novel a rating of 5 because of the unique
perspective it gives to a much talked about and studied war in our classrooms. I would highly recommend this novel for any school library looking
to add more of this type of genre to their collection.
Reviewer: Cynthia Friedman
The Stratford Gazette
Another notable children’s novel set in Canada’s past is Jean Rae Baxter’s The Way Lies North.
For 15-year old Charlotte Hooper and her parents, loyal to England’s King George, the only way to escape the violence of the “Sons of Liberty” during the American Revolution was to leave their Mohawk Valley farm and flee to Canada. The northward journey, however, was full of danger: attacks from Revolutionaries or Oneida warriors, waterways to cross, hunger, illness and frostbite. For Charlotte, the biggest hardship was leaving behind her sweetheart, Nick, a Revolutionary sympathizer. Would she ever see him again?
In the face of adversity, and despite an uncertain future, Charlotte displays courage, ingenuity, compassion for others, and a maturity well beyond her years. At the same time, she is a thoroughly believable heroine. Her engrossing story brings alive the history of the United Empire Loyalists’ difficult flight to Canada. Hamilton, Ontario author Jean Rae Baxter’s first book is a pleasure to read – the only difficulty is putting this very well-written story down!
The Way Lies North is a 2009 nominee for Ontario ’s Red Maple Fiction Award.
Reviewer: Sally Hengeveld
Association of Book Publishers of BC
BC Books for BC Schools
This book is part survival guide and part love story. It tells the tale of Charlotte and her Loyalist family who must leave their home and run
for their lives when they are forced off their land during the American Revolution. Charlotte also leaves behind her beloved Nick who unfortunately
sympathizes with the Revolutionaries. The people of the Mohawk Nation are friends of the fleeing Loyalists and help them travel north to Canada to
get to safety. Nick, on his own journey of discovery, becomes a courier for the Loyalists and he and Charlotte are reunited. The time Charlotte
spends with the Aboriginal guides on this dangerous trip and during additional ones she must take, gives her much insight into the ways of the
Mohawk people. She becomes well versed in their traditions and customs and eventually lives up to her new Aboriginal name, 'Woman of Two Worlds'.
Escalating hostilities between Tories, loyal to the British Crown, and Whigs, who demand independence for Britain’s Thirteen American Colonies,
have exacted a heavy price on fifteen-year old Charlotte Hooper. Her three older brothers have all ‘accepted the King’s shilling,’ and two have
been killed in fighting. The third is missing and feared dead. She has had to shoulder a large part of the chores on her family’s farm in New
York’s Mohawk Valley, helping her father in the fields and with their livestock. She has not seen her sweetheart, Nick Schyler, for five months,
ever since they quarrelled about politics. Though Nick has sworn that he will always love her, their prolonged separation sets Charlotte to
wondering if he has forgotten her.
When stories reach the Hooper family that Tory friends and neighbours are being attacked, robbed of their possessions, and turned out of their homes or, worse, burned to death in them, Charlotte’s father announces that it is time for them to leave. After burying the family papers and their silver tea service, Charlotte and her parents set out on the long walk to Lake Oneida where Charlotte’s father has arranged an old Mohawk friend to meet them and take them by canoe Fort Haldimand, the British encampment at Carleton Island, in the St. Lawrence river near the mouth of Lake Ontario. The journey is long and dangerous. Forced to travel by night, since roving gangs of thugs who call themselves the Sons of Liberty regularly assault and kill fleeing Loyalists, the Hooper family struggle through bad weather, accidents, and a casual attack to reach the shores of Lake Oneida by the agreed-upon date. Along the way, they are joined by other refugees, often travelling with babes in arms and nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
Charlotte’s experiences, both on the journey to Carleton Island with her fellow refugees and the Mohawk warriors, and then living in a cold and crowded tent encampment at Fort Haldimand, confirm her strength of character, but she watches with growing concern as her mother’s health weakens and her father grows old. And she thinks about and longs for news of her sweetheart, Nick.
The Way Lies North is an historical adventure set against the backdrop of the American Revolutionary War. The main character, Charlotte, is a young woman tested by war and adversity, but whose indominable spirit is never broken.