"It was a long journey they set out on"
In grade six, the wonderful Ms. Glenda Ripley, teacher extraordinare with a passion for English literature, read aloud to our class from Kit Pearson's The Sky is Falling.
The story, set in 1940, centred on Norah Stokes, a 10 year-old feisty girl from Kent, England, whose parents decide to send her and her 5 year-old brother Gavin to Canada for the remainder of the war. Norah is devastated to abandon her country in its time of need, and terrified of leaving her familiar life for the big, safe, unknown Canada. When she and Gavin arrive, they are assigned to live with Florence and Mary Ogilvie, the first of whom is bossy and proud, the latter: timid and quiet. Norah struggles with school, making new friends, and overwhelming homesickness, and tries desperately to adjust to her new home.
As Ms. Ripley read, I fell in love with Norah. I fell in love with England and her experiences of war; I sympathized with her fear of meeting new people and trying to respect her new family; as she escaped into books with characters who always seemed to have the perfect life, I was Norah. I quickly found out that The Sky is Falling was the first in the Guests of War Trilogy, and I promptly took out the next two books from the library - Looking at the Moon, and The Lights Go On Again. Just after my 12th birthday, I bought the trilogy: the first book I ever bought for myself.
I realize now how [Kit Pearson] is a practically perfect 9-12 adolescent writer, and I find the issues that her children face are things I dealt with when I was 12 and are still the same ones that I deal with now. I think that's sort of profound, because it means that we never really stop feeling how we did when we were a child. The things that scare us and give us joy and cause us to worry never really stop; they just change names and places. I seriously opened The Sky is Falling and started to cry when I read the first page, because it was like my entire youth readership, my love of history, my understanding of my country and the whole reason I am doing the MACL program was all because of that book. That book has shaped me and influenced my life more than any other novel.