Scholastic Canada | Dear Canada - Make History Your Own

Dear Canada: A step back in time


Dear Reader

When I was invited to write a book in the Dear Canada series, my first instinct was to decline. I had never written a book set in the past and the prospect was scary. I was sure that I would get something wrong. What if I made mistakes about what people ate for breakfast or wore on their feet in the rain? More importantly, what if I made mistakes about how people in the past felt or thought? I didn't want to write one of those books in which the writer takes a 21st century kid and just plunks her in the 19th century. I also didn't want to write one of those books like I had read in school in which a story is used to teach history, in which the historical facts stick out like lumps.

I changed my mind because I had two thoughts. One was the memory of how much I loved books about the olden days when I was a kid, not the teachy ones but the Little House on the Prairie ones with a real story. My second thought was that if I chose a time in which there were still living witnesses, in which I could ask someone about breakfast or boots or what she was afraid of when she was a kid perhaps I could find the confidence to attempt an historical novel myself. So I took a deep breath and jumped into the world of historical research. In all the books I read, in all the newspapers, diaries, letters, in all the fascinating old people I talked to I kept asking myself, "What was it really like?" I kept trying to feel myself into the past. This exercise revealed to me a new kind of pleasure in writing. I still worry about being wrong or lumpy, but now that I know how fun it is to time-travel backwards I'm willing to take the risk.

- Sarah Ellis