Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 12
- Grade: 3 to 7
It's 1773 and twelve-year-old Dougal Cameron and his whole family are set to sail away from their Scotland home forever. When tragedy strikes, the family must decide whether or not to make the trip without Dougal's father. Once the ship departs, Dougal is drawn to the haunting sounds of the lone piper on board. (The instrument, while still illegal in their homeland at the time, was brought aboard to keep spirits up.) When a violent storm knocks the Hector two weeks off course, Dougal's dream of becoming a piper has to take a back seat to keeping his three little sisters alive.
Author Jacqueline Halsey spares no detail in this inspiring story of the brigantine that brought the first Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia, focusing on its difficult journey, and the strong-willed and determined individuals who risked it all to call Nova Scotia home.
About the author
For Jacqueline Halsey, growing up in post war London meant walking to school past numerous bombsites and listening to her mother's stories about food rationing and air raids. Consequently, she always admired the courage of women and children coping with the tasks of everyday life in wartime situations. This courage inspired Peggy's Letters, Jacqueline's first book.
After High School she went to art college in Worthing, Sussex and then much later obtained a BA degree at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, which she attended as a mature student.
Jacqueline loves traveling and has visited many countries, including South Africa where she lived in a sugar mill village for four years.
She currently works in the Alderney Gate library in Halifax. Her days are filled with books, rhymes, puppets and lots of children to share them with. Jacqueline lives with her husband Ray, her granddaughter Ashlee, two cats and a very old goldfish in a house by a lake in Nova Scotia - a very different place from Peggy's war torn neighborhood. She is part of the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia's 'Writer's in the School Program.' Her visits to schools are booked through them.
Jacqueline has a web page on the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia website: http://www.writers.ns.ca/Writers/jhalsey.html.
Peggy's Letters (Oct 2005) published by Orca Books.
Nominated for: Hackmatack 2007 Children's Choice award; Rocky Mountain 2007 Children's Choice award; Silver Birch (Express) 2007 Children's Choice award; Woozle's Battle of the Books 2007 list
The Gran Plan
Placed third in the 2003 Atlantic Writing Competition/ Joyce Barkhouse award for Children's Literature. (Un published manuscripts) Subsequently, it was published (Fall 2006) by Scholastic as part of their Literacy Place for the Early Years school reading program.
- Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Awards (English Fiction)
- Short-listed, CCBC Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Excerpt: Piper (by (author) Jacqueline Halsey)
"Just a few notes, not even a tune, but the notes seemed to make up their own music. Soon Wee Mary stopped crying, then Flora and Maggie slowly quieted too. Dougal kept playing, letting the simple melody push away the bad sounds outside their bunk."
"This recommended title would make an excellent cross-curricular read for a unit on settlement, pioneers, or migration. It would also be eye-opening to compare and contrast Dougal's experience on the ship with that of slaves being brought from Africa." —Resource Links (NL)
"Piper invites comparison between the historical experiences of Highland Scots in Nova Scotia and the current experiences of other groups around the world." —National Reading Campaign
"While this work is aimed at junior-intermediate level readers, its range is actually broader than that. And that is a good thing because the author has written a fine book of historical fiction." —Canadian Teacher Magazine