“A compelling work of historical fiction (and) a poignant family drama.”
Atlantic Books Today
Reviewed by Lisa Doucet, co manager of Woozles Children’s Book Store.
For as long as she can remember, Grace’s life has revolved around Dotty, her older sister. Living with the nuns in a convent in Belgium, she has always helped look after Dotty. Until Now. Dotty is dead and Grace is being moved to the dormitory to be with the other girls her age, the same girls who used to call her and Dotty “sister retards.”
To make matters worse, cruel Sister Francis is in charge of the dormitory. As Grace tries to fit in with the other girls and make new friends, she also tries desperately to steer clear of Sister Francis, who always seems filled with anger and hate. Grace continues to hope and pray that one day the mother who left her and Dotty at the convent will come back for her.
When Grace finds an old diary hidden in the library, she becomes caught up in the sad story of the young woman who wrote it. As she learns about the terrifying events that transpired when the Nazis invaded Belgium, her heart goes out to the girl who witnessed and lived through such unspeakable horrors. She never images that this diary will lead her to the truth about her own family history.
Recalling her own experiences at a Belgian boarding school, Nova Scotian author Daphne Greer has crafted a compelling work of historical fiction that is a poignant family drama. Although readers are only briefly introduced to Dotty, she is nonetheless a beautifully realized character. The relationship between her and Grace is vividly rendered and realistically depicted.
Grace’s experiences, insecurities and fears as she begins her new life with the other girls will elicit empathy from modern readers who will relate to her feelings if not the setting. Through the diary entries that Grace reads, the author is able to give readers a glimpse of what life was like in Belgium during the dark days of Nazi occupation. The multi – layered plot is intricately woven and well paced. The resolution is emotionally satisfying, making this a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
CM : Canadian Materials Review:
Recommended by: Teresa Iaizzo, a librarian with the Toronto Public Library.
I stare at the piece of paper. It has a section for your mother’s side of the family and a section for your father’s. A lump lodges in my throat. I was left on the steps of the convent in a basket with a cloth diaper tucked in my blanket – just Dotty and me. I guess our parents couldn’t handle both Dotty and a new baby. Maybe they’d had enough of taking care of people after fifteen years of Dotty. I can’t stand up in front of the class with a blank page.
Grace, 13, is an orphan living in a Belgian convent in the 1970s with her sister Dotty. After years of Grace’s being her sister’s sole caregiver, Dotty unexpectedly dies, leaving Grace all alone for the second time in her life and sparking events which will have repercussions for years to come.
While conducting research for a school project, Grace discovers a hidden diary from the 1940s. The diary tells the story of a young girl turned nun who was tormented by her family, other nuns, and Nazis during World war II. Unbeknownst to Grace, this diary is actually the key to unraveling her own past.
Without giving too much away, Finding Grace is a brilliant coming of age story that focuses on the inner turmoil of a young girl who is grappling with who she is as a person. Without knowing any family outside her sister, Grace is desperate to discover where she comes from and, ultimately, to find out who she is. By the author’s interweaving Grace’s coming-of-age story with that of the mysterious author of the diary, readers come to understand how history sometimes has a funny way of repeating itself.
Reviews for Camped Out 2017
Orca Book Publishers
October 9, 2015
This review is from: CM Magazine – Review by Julianne Mutimer
*** /4 Recommended
“What’s the sky saying?” Frank asks. Ruby and I both look at the same time. “It’s really beautiful, Captain,” Ruby says. “The sun is going down and the sky is filled with all sorts of mixed-up colours…” Frank takes a deep breath and lets out a long sigh. I feel bad he can’t see the sunset. It is pretty cool.
Jacob Mosher has lost both of his parents, and just as he is adjusting to, and beginning to like, his new life with his foster mum Maggie, he is sent away to spend the summer with his strange grandparents in Nova Scotia: Captain Frank and his deckhand Pearl. While Frank and Pearl seem nice enough, they are, well, pretty old and a little quirky for Jacob’s tastes. Frank, who is blind and appears to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, occasionally retreats to his earlier years as a sea captain – sporting his jacket, medals, and all at the breakfast table – and Pearl, who appears to be giving up on Frank, are not exactly the ideal companions for a pre-teen boy; however, the summer begins to shape up when Jacob befriends a neighbour named Ruby (who has an intriguing older sister), and when he discovers that there are mysteries to be uncovered at his grandparent’s house, such as why he never knew about or was told that his grandparents existed, and a rumour about large amounts of cash hidden in their old house full of secret nooks and crannies.
June 19, 2015
I love fish-out-of-water novels so much. Junior high seems to be the perfect age to experience new things and retain the adventure of the newness, while exploring the difficulties of adjusting and taking it all in stride. Daphne Greer has written a fish-out-of-water novel with a classy cover that reminds me of THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS, by Katherine Paterson, with a quieter protagonist who deals with the hand he’s been dealt in different ways. While the fish-out-of-water/ mi familia loca trope is nothing new, the requisite “new-things-per-page” that makes a novel interesting is all right there, includes new landscapes – this book is set in the tiny village of Newport Landing, Nova Scotia, and now I have nineteen other reasons to pop over to Nova Scotia one summer. It sounds amazing.
Summary: Jacob Mosher’s life is like a cracked cup. All that was familiar and loved has seeped out — way back when he was tiny, his mother, then a year ago his father, now, this summer his foster mother, Maggie, and the familiar cityscapes of Ottawa. There’s very little left in Jacob’s life that doesn’t seem to be departing on an outgoing tide. His social worker, Bernice, has worked a miracle in finding his last two surviving relatives. He has grandparents! But they’re a world away in Nova Scotia – a.k.a. nowhere – and they’re as weird as heck. SUPER weird. His grandfather, Frank, is forever barking nautical orders, wears this bizarre naval getup, is blind, and can’t seem to remember Jacob’s not some junior sailor on his nonexistent ship. His grandmother, Pearl, is… evasive, doesn’t ask any questions – or answer any questions, either – and doesn’t always remember to put in her dentures. And why didn’t Jacob’s father ever say anything about having family? Why hasn’t he ever been to see Frank and Pearl? There are secrets and things left unsaid haunting all corners of the great big house on the hill.
May 6 2015
Wow! This book reeled me in and made me fall in love with the author. Even though it’s intended for a younger reader it effected me tremendously.
Through trials, many trials, and reluctance, Jacob finds more than he expected to in the small town of Newport Landing.
Jacob, a young boy on the verge of gaining so much after losing a lot, is asked to stay with his grandparents after just learning about them. With an alcoholic mother he doesn’t know, a father he loved dearly until he died and now a foster mom leaving for a retreat, Jacob is moved from a big city in Ontario to a small town in Nova Scotia for the summer.
In the beginning he struggles to adjust, as all in this circumstance would, and he begins to learn how many secrets his life is wrapped in. With an ailing grandfather who forgets who he is and believes he’s the Captain of a ship to his grandmother who is failing to handle everything on her own, Jacob takes on more than any boy should.
I found your book completely enthralling for several reasons. First of all, it’s extremely well written, taking very little time and space to completely involve this reader on a subject.
Don Harron August, 2012
School Library Journal – May 1, 2012
“The boy’s relationship with his family will hold readers’ attention. This book would make a good purchase for large libraries or those that have heavily used reluctant-reader collections.”
Laura Dick is trying to raise four teenagers while attempting to maintain her sanity. She escapes to work as a branch manager at a mid-sized public library in Southwestern Ontario.
Max’s world used to revolve around hockey – practicing, playing, thinking and talking about the game all the time – but not anymore. Now Max has to worry about his special needs brother, Duncan, and his mom who are both having a hard time coping since his dad died. Because his mom has to work so much in order to make enough money for them to live on, Max is on full time Duncan duty. That means getting Duncan ready for school every morning, delivering him to his classroom, looking out for him after school and taking him with him everywhere. Even to hockey practice. It’s not that Max doesn’t love Duncan. He does, a lot. But looking after a special needs brother who is bigger than he is, worrying about his mom and trying to keep up with his friends and play an occasional game of hockey is just too much for Max. No wonder he reaches out for help – and finds some for himself, and for the rest of his family, too.
Book review by Francisca Goldsmith (Booklist) March 2012
The frustrations that accompany a young teen having to take on significant family responsibilities are palpable in this realistic novel. Since the sudden death of Max’s father, his mother has become too absorbed in her depression to do anything but go to her jobs, sleep or mourn. Max becomes responsible for grocery shopping, cooking, and – most daunting – caring for his developmentally disabled older brother, Duncan. Max has to give up being a reliable member of the pickup hockey games he and his best friend, Ian, play and feels crushed by the weight of having no reliable adult guidance for himself as well as for Duncan. Greer tells this story with genuine empathy as Max copes with him mom and brother, protects Duncan from a local bully, and sneaks in some fun with Ian. The resolution may be quick but it is not too pat for credibility. Another fine entry in the Orca Currents line that will engage reluctant readers without talking down to them or sounding stilted.
The Peer Pressure Cooker
In “Hold the Pickles”; an embarrassed Dan dresses as a hot dog at the fair to earn money to hire a personal trainer to pump up his physique and self-esteem. In “Maxed Out”, the Max of the title is all things to the needy people in his life: a responsible son and brother (his dad recently died and his brother has special needs), and a promising hockey player who’s stoked about the requisite “big game.”
“A realistic portrayal of a family rocked by the sudden death of their husband and father. Targeted at 10- to 13-year olds, this novel does an excellent job of layering the stresses and tensions of Max’s world…Greer delivers a well-written, engaging novel for preteens who will be drawn in by the apparent sports focused cover and the sports related theme but who will ultimately be exposed to a book that digs a little deeper and that turns out to tell a much more important story…Highly Recommended.” (CM Magazine 2012-04-06)
“Greer has some nice turns of phrase…[and] the closing scene in the novel is heart-warming and well written.” (Resource Links 2012-04-01)
“This short novel delivers with a story that is both interesting and realistic.” (Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group 2012-05-15)