Born in Winnipeg on June 4, 1927, Constance Horne of Victoria first came to Nelson, B.C. in 1951. She taught school for five years in Minnedosa, Manitoba, in Nelson, B.C. and Vancouver. Her books have been chosen by the Canadian Children's Book Centre as Our Choice award winners and she has been shortlisted three times for the Geoffrey Bilson Award. She is also a contributor to Winds Through Time: An Anthology of Canadian Historical Young Adult Fiction (Beach Holme, 1998). Most of her work has historical settings, largely because she found such stories were lacking when she was a teacher. The title story of The Jo Boy Deserts occurs on Vancouver Island in the 1860s; the two others are set in the Prairies of the 1930s. Emily Carr's Woo is about the painter's intelligent but mischievous monkey. Born in Java, Woo died in the Stanley Park Zoo in 1938. Horne's Carr stories are fiction based on fact. Similarly Trapped By Coal tells the story of a coal mining family, the Pigotts, struggling to survive on Vancouver Island, near Ladysmith, when the town of Extension is afflicted by both a drought and influenza in 1916. Written for young readers, Lost in a Blizzard follows Marnie, and her dawdling little brother, as they find themselves hopelessly lost in a Winnipeg snowstorm, and in Papa's Surprise, two children from the Doucet household set off like voyageurs across the prairies in 1938.

In The Accidental Orphan, the year is 1885 and eleven-year-old Ellen is accused of stealing while innocently selling flowers on the Liverpool docks. Fearing prison, she stows away on a launch and is ferried, along with a ragtag pack of "workhouse brats,"; to a ship bound for Canada. Based on the plight of homeless children who were dispersed to the Prairies as free labour, the story follows Ellen to a Manitoba homestead where she waits desperately for someone from the Society for the Placement of Deserving Orphans in the British Colonies to contact her uncle in England. Ellen is again falsely accused of theft and, although the charge is frivolous and quickly dropped, as a scorned Home Child she must struggle to find her place in the community. Her surrogate family is kind and well-intentioned, but a fellow orphan is not as lucky. Aboard ship George Matthews, a jug-eared bully, had taunted Ellen relentlessly. But when she next encounters him, ragged and thin, his body marked with abuse, she's horrified she'd ever hoped he would go to "the meanest family in Canada."; One magical June morning Uncle Bert arrives, lured to Canada by a photograph, but as a musician he's not cut out for farm life and city life proves inhospitable, too. So will Ellen go with him? or stay with her new-found family?

Constance Horne has lived in Victoria since 1960.


Nykola and Granny (Gage, 1989)
The Jo Boy Deserts and Other Stories (Pacific Educational, 1992)
Trapped by Coal (Pacific Educational, 1994). 0-88865-091-4. Illustrated by Linda Heslop.
Emily Carr's Woo (Oolichan, 1995)
The Accidental Orphan (Beach Holme, 1998 $8.95). 0-88878-385-X
Lost in the Blizzard (Hodgepog, 2000 $5.95). 1895836-69-7. Illustrated by Lori McGregor McCrae.
Papa's Surprise (Hodgepog Books, 2002 $6.95) 0-9730831-1-5. Illustrated by Mia Hansen.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "Kidlit"