Waiting in Colonel By’s office, sixteen year old Sean O’Dare was mesmerized by the wondrously-carved matched pistols in a box on the desk. Colonel By took a long time to arrive, held up on Rideau Canal business most likely, for he was in charge of the huge project of building a canal from Bytown (now Ottawa) on the Ottawa River to Kingston on Lake Ontario.
Finally, when Sean could no longer resist and actually picked up a tempting pistol, Sergeant Grassly was instantly beside him, stealing his note for the Colonel and accusing him of attempting to steal the pistols. A stranger, Mr. Rogers, who was obviously a man of importance, stood up for Sean and he left, a free man. For now.
However, that same evening Sean faced Sergeant Grassley and another accusation of theft of the same pistols, so he fled. He headed down the Rideau River, met Mr. Rogers again, and was soon in worse trouble than ever. He hurried down the river after a thief, an attacker, a murderer. As the weather got colder, Sean traveled from Kingston back to Bytown, then down to Montreal and back, still trying to clear his name of theft and to help his new friends.
Canal Boy by Marion Greene, set in eastern Ontario in 1828, is full of authentic details, places, and geography. For anyone living near the Rideau Canal, Sean’s travels have a thrill of familiarity that makes the story seem even more real. Written in 1959, it is full of the traditional concepts of right, wrong, courage, and dedication that make a story heroic.
Canal Boy is a fast-paced adventure that kept me turning pages as quickly as I could. We recommend it as an exciting and wholesome story for ages 12 and up. However, it will also be of great interest to anyone interested in Ontario’s past, or Canadian history in general. It is especially fascinating to those interested in the history of the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Canal Boy is available second hand from various suppliers and, for my local readers, it is part of the Ottawa Public Library collection.
This book forms part of our literature-based Canadian History course and will be an incentive for us to visit the Rideau Canal Museum, the Bytown Museum, and the locks of the canal itself. We have walked part of the Rideau Trail and I’m dreaming of taking a boat trip down the canal, but that requires either a lot of money or a lot of paddling.
Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library.