Having been born and raised in England, where she was taught how to sail on the River Thames by the Royal Navy, Amanda Spottiswoode of Salt Spring Island has transformed her yearly sailing adventures along the West Coast aboard her 34-foot wooden sloop, South Islander, into a children's book partially inspired by the nefarious shyster and self-proclaimed religious mystic The Brother, XII who built a cult-based colony at DeCourcey Island and Cedar-by-the-Sea. Illustrated by Molly March, Spottiswoode's playful Brother XII's Treasure (Heritage 2015) also appears to be inspired by M. Wylie Blanchet's West Coast classic, The Curve of Time. In Spottiswoode's tale for pre-teen readers, we meet seven children from English boarding schools who embark on a sailing adventure in 1936. Hearing about the transplanted English eccentric Edward Arthur Wilson (who became a cruel theosophical leader in partnership with his mistress known as Madame Zee), they search for buried treasure that was supposedly left behind when Wilson, aka The Brother XII, hastily disappeared, one step ahead of the law. The book was shortlisted for the Chocolate Lily Book Award and a selection of the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens.

Spottiswoode followed with a sequel, The Silver Lining (Heritage 2017) in which the seven children go on a cattle driving adventure in Interior B.C. They run into a familiar villain and are led to a dangerous old mine. It's an ode to the sights and sounds of the Okanagan in the 1930s, also illustrated by Molly March.

She published a third historical YA novel, Up in Arms (Heritage 2017) set in 1940's on the BC coast. Youngsters from Victoria travel to the remote Boat Basin to visit Captain Gunn, who is working on top-secret military work at a nearby lighthouse. They also meet real-life historical figures Cougar Annie and aviator Jim Spilsbury, recover a precious Indigenous artifact and get involved in other adventures.

***

Up In Arms
by Amanda Spottiswoode
illustrations by Molly March
(Heritage House $12.95)

Review by Steve Pocock

It is always difficult for an adult to review a children?s book objectively because they are not the intended audience. Up In Arms by Amanda Spottiswoode reminded me a little of the Enid Blyton stories of my own childhood, where children?temporarily free of parental guidance?banded together to have a rip-roaring adventure coupled with a dose of morality and important life lessons learned. Up In Arms is none the worse for that comparison.

In 1939 and 1940, some 6,000 British children, known as child evacuees and British guest children, were sent to Canada to escape the threat of German invasion. The practice was stopped in September 1940 with the sinking of SS City of Benares by a U-Boat and the loss of 77 children.

Up in arms recounts the adventures of six child evacuees on Vancouver Island. This fictional story follows the fortunes of the MacTavish and Phillips children who are sent to Vancouver Island on their own to escape the dangers facing Britain and Europe during the Second World War.
We follow the adventures of Sophie, Molly, Mark, Harriet, Leticia, and Posy as they journey across the Atlantic, across Canada, and settle into their new lives. The first half of the book feels more ?tell? than ?show,? with a lot of ground being covered through exposition rather than action.

The second half of the story warms up nicely, especially once the children leave Victoria and commence their exploits on the west coast of Vancouver Island, first with an encounter with the legendary, real-life character Cougar Annie and then with a group of First Nations children who come to their aid. Indigenous history and the impact of colonial policies, such as the potlatch ban and the confiscation of Indigenous regalia, are melded into the story.
Experiencing through the eyes of children an alien culture, replete with eccentric coastal characters, provides an engaging backdrop to Spottiswoode?s adventures.

Given that the book is set in the 1940s, inevitably there are some gender stereotypes; but Molly, the eldest of our heroines, becomes an accomplished pilot, and her flying prowess subsequently forms a crucial part of the plot.
Up In Arms is the latest in a series?that includes Brother XII?s Treasure, and The Silver Lining? involving these same plucky young adventurers from the MacTavish and Phillips families. Children?and parents?who appreciated Spottiswoode?s previous stories, and those who are discovering them for the first time, will find much to enjoy here.

9781772032024

Steve Pocock is a researcher with Hansard Services at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

***

BOOKS:

Memoirs of a Cruising Dog (self-published)

Brother XII's Treasure (Heritage 2015) $12.95 9781772030716

The Silver Lining (Heritage 2017) $12.95 978-1-77203-132-4

Up in Arms (Heritage 2017) $12.95 978-1-77203-202-4

[BCBW 2017]