by Andrea Curtis
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4598-1571-1 (sc)
$14.95, 192 pp, ages 12+
Toronto-area writer Andrea Curtis has already written one historical work on a Georgian Bay tragedy, which led to this fictionalized account of the actual sinking of the steamship Asia in the late nineteenth century. Seventeen-year-old Chris McBurney, traumatized by the recent death of her twin brother Jonathan, runs away from Toronto in early September 1882. She quickly finds herself aboard a ship bound for Sault Ste. Marie but ends up one of just two survivors in a lifeboat on the waters near Manitoulin Island. She and the mysterious stranger Daniel— who is about the same age—must deal with days of hunger, storms and dangerous wildlife before finally being rescued by an Anishinaabe family. The author provides a gripping tale that deals sensitively with the growing romance between the survivors, and Curtis also offers insight into the mores and social norms of early Ontario.
Classroom Connections: Unfortunately, the Orca “Teacher Resources Website” offers no specific link for Big Water, but classroom teachers should find a ready audience of eager readers for this young adult novel. Students could debate the similarities and differences in expectations around relationships then and now, document the limited sphere normally accorded young females then, or even examine how First Nations were depicted and thought of by settler communities.
Review by George Sheppard.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2018 issue.