Young Reader Review: La Promesse du bout du monde by Danielle S. Marcotte
La Promesse du bout du monde
Author: Danielle S. Marcotte
Illustrator: Stphanie Bourgeois
Boutons d’or Acadie
In 1786, Alexis is working hard on a sailing ship that has left England for North America. He is 15 years old. His father and brother have crossed the Atlantic, and his mother and sister have died.
Despite the harsh conditions and equally harsh attitudes of the adult crew members, Alexis and his friend Hugh appreciate their jobs: they have food to eat, are learning a trade and can travel the world. While Hugh seeks freedom, Alexis also hopes he will be able to keep his promise of returning to Acadie, his family’s homeland before the Expulsion.
The journey results in more adventure and more struggle than he expected. At one stop, he and Hugh are given tasks to do on land. Alexis becomes lost in the forest, has to hide from the cougar that has attacked his friend and misses the ship’s departure.
An Indigenous girl who is the sole survivor of smallpox in her village cares for him. Together, Alexis and the girl bury her dead, find local foods and plant remedies and communicate in an invented language.
After several months, Alexis’s youth and strength and the girl’s knowledge of botany earn them a place on another ship. When he and the girl land in California, he is reunited with Hugh.
The three friends live and work with a mixed Spanish and Indigenous family. But eventually, Alexis has to make the hard decision to leave the others and continue his travels. His perilous voyages are reminiscent of the fate many Acadians encountered in the second half of the 18th century.
This book combines a captivating historical tale with well-drawn characters. It will capture the interest of high school immersion students and francophones aged 12 and up.
Jo-Anne Elder has translated more than 20 works of poetry, theatre, film, fiction and non-fiction from French to English and has been shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award for translation three times. She and her husband, Aboriginal artist Carlos Gomes, live with their large family in Fredericton.