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Children's Fiction Post-confederation (1867-)

A Sky Black with Crows

by (author) Alice Walsh

Red Deer Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2006
Post-Confederation (1867-), Canada, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2006
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


A compelling adventure story!

In the early 20th century, an English doctor exposed the desperation of the people of the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador. The doctor's name - Wilfred Grenfell - soon became synonymous with one of the greatest missions to the poverty-stricken in North America. The Grenfell mission was the early headquarters for the doctor's work. Thousands of fishermen and their families had no access to medical care, despite the harsh conditions of the fishery and life along the north Atlantic shores.

This book dramatizes this time and place and the Grenfell cause, through the story of a feisty teenager, Katie Andrew, whose family fishes the Labrador waters each summer. It's the spring of 1913, and Katie and her family join her father in the tiny settlement of Fox's Cove. The fishing life is tough and demanding, and as autumn draws near, Katie's father is lost at sea. Katie's mother stubbornly refuses to leave the outport, and waits for him to return even when all hope is lost. The tragedy is compounded when Katie's entire family falls ill and her mother dies. Katie awakens after her illness in the orphanage run by the Grenfell mission. She's relieved that one of her sisters has been saved with her, but is devastated by the disappearance of her youngest sister, who has been adopted by a well-to-do photographer and his family.

The loss of her sister marks the beginning of Katie's journey and the trigger for a compelling adventure story. It's a story that takes the girl through a series of events that are as vital to her search for her sister as they are insightful of the history of the Atlantic region at a time when Canada was about to make its early mark on the world.

Alice Walsh conveys a gritty sense of life in the outports and in the city of Halifax, where Katie continues her hunt for her sister. There's an authentic feel to the details of life on the Labrador, in the Grenfell orphanage - and in the wealthy and not so wealthy streets of Halifax. Above all, the story of Katie is one that will have enormous appeal for young readers who will empathize with a girl who fights back after losing so much and who retains a determination to make things right in the face of such overwhelming odds.

About the author

Alice Walsh was born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada. An alumnus of St. Mary’s University and Acadia University, Walsh has degrees in both English and criminology, and a master’s degree in English literature with a focus on children’s literature. She is the award- winning author of several children’s books and young adult novels, including Pomiuk, Prince of the North, A Sky Black with Crows, and her latest book, A Long Way from Home. Walsh has received the Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award, the Ann Connor Brimer Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award. A former preschool teacher, probation officer, and creative writing instructor, Walsh currently lives and writes in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

Alice Walsh's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Walsh paints a compelling portrait of the demanding and harsh conditions faced by people living in the outports of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador during the early 20th century. The significance of Grenfell's work among the needy "livyers" and "freighters" scattered along the coast of Labrador is a vital component in the novel. . . Many young readers will sympathize with Katie's plight and rejoice when things conveniently work out well, and they will gain valuable insights into the history and culture of early 20th century Newfoundland and Labrador.
CM Magazine

"Walsh paints a vivid portrait of life in pre-Confederation Newfoundland with its cruel winters, isolated outports and harsh living and working conditions. However, she also captures the spirit of its people: their rugged determination and the sense of Kinship and community that they shared. . . Katie's determination to succeed against the odds, both in her quest to find her sister and to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse, serves as a true source of inspiration, both for characters in the book and its readers."
Atlantic Books Today

"(Katie's) quest to become nurse, and a blossoming romance with a young soldier who was once a childhood friend, combine to make this a page-turner for girls 12 and up."
The Star Phoenix (Saskatchewan)

Other titles by Alice Walsh