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Dear Canada: A step back in time


Footsteps in the Snow

Footsteps in the Snow
The Red River Diary of Isobel Scott

By Carol Matas

ISBN: 978-0-439-98835-3 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2811-7 Ebook
208 pages | Ages 9-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

Isobel thinks that she and her family will find their fortune in Canada. But Isobel's mother dies before they even cross the ocean, and other misfortunes seem to follow their every step. Isobel's family and the other Selkirk Settlers find themselves caught in the fur-trading rivalry between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. They cannot even start to build once they finally reach their destination. The harsh climate and escalating threats against the settlers make it impossible to start a new life. Only through perseverance and help from the local Cree band are Isobel and her family able to put down roots in the Red River Valley.

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From Isobel's diary:

November 3

We arrived today at The Forks!

We are ensconced in the main building at Fort Douglas, in a small room. I sit by the fire and on the rough wooden table is a cruisie lamp which gives me just enough light to see these pages.

So much has happened since my last entry, and weeks have passed. Near the end of the journey we had to endure another trial. We ran out of food. The hunters were only finding small game, not nearly enough to feed such a large group. The pemmican was gone. We became weaker by the day as we subsisted on a watery stew of roots, some sort of wild turnip. Robbie became pale, and he shivered easily as he had no food inside him to keep him warm. (And dear diary, so did I, although I never would have complained and worried Father.) It seemed after a while that we would be travelling forever and never reach our destination.

Being on Lake Winnipeg was once again like being on the sea, it is so large. Our boats had to hug the shore because the winds would have been too much for us out in the open. At times all I could think of was my empty stomach, and I'm afraid I barely noticed my surroundings. . .

This morning when we arrived at The Forks the sun shone and Jasper McKay played his bagpipes. On the rough wooden dock, waiting for us, were thirteen families — the only settlers who had not been driven away by the North West Company. . . We leapt onto the dock as our boats pulled in. Everyone seemed to talk at once. . . .

It was chaos as news was exchanged. Tears flowed, people called to one another. I looked around anxiously to get a good view of our new home, but it all looked similar to the landscape we had just travelled, trees, bushes and shrubs near the river, tall grass and shrub farther on. I could not really see beyond this so I was anxious to go exploring. I was about to suggest this to James and Robbie when Father hurried over to us and said, "We cannot even unpack."

"But why not, Father?" I asked, dreading what he was to say.

". . .Nothing is ready for us. Apparently there is not enough food for us to spend the winter here. It appears that we will have to leave The Forks almost immediately, before it gets too cold for us to travel. . ." He shook his head.

I cannot yet believe it even though I am reporting it in these pages. Such a long and difficult trip, only to discover home is still beyond our grasp. It is heartbreaking news that we must spend an entire winter away, and that it will only be in the spring that we can return, to begin our new lives here at The Forks.

From Dear Canada: Footsteps in the Snow, copyright © 2002 by Carol Matas.


This was probably one of my favorite Dear Canada books. I've read it over and over again! And not just because Isobel has the exact same name as me, because it's an awesome adventure story and it refers a lot to indigenous ways of living and doing things. Great job!
Isobel S., Age 13, British Columbia, Rating: 10

My favorite Dear Canada book EVER!I think it is really cool how she overcomes challenges like a mini war and walking hundreds of miles.
Alicia R., Age: 10, Quebec, Rating: 10

I loved it, but half the time, once I finished I found myself crying.
Isobel S., Age 13, British Columbia, Rating: 10

Dear Dear Canada people, I have read Turned Away a few times, and I spent a good deal of time on the website trying to find another book by Carol Matas, and I found Footsteps in the Snow. I enjoyed it just the same and maybe more as Turned Away, so much that I MADE my mom read it! Well, now that I have finished it, I want to read Lisa by Carol Matas, too. I really enjoy most Dear Canada books, and I'll recommend them to anyone at any time.
Katie K., Age: 11., Ontario, Rating: 10

I loved this book! This book made me feel about how lucky we are.
Angel R., Age 13, Ontario, Rating: 10