Once On This Island- Gloria Whelan

Synopsis: When war erupts between England and America in 1812, it brings change and uncertainty—even to Michigan’s remote Mackinac Island. For young Mary O’Shea, the hardest change is the departure of her father, who leaves Mackinac to join the American Army. With her sister and brother, Mary must tend the farm, deal with the hardships of British occupation, and hope for the safe return of their father.



Rumours of war, and once war breakouts, updates and news. Talk about the ones lost or wounded- Mary witnesses one battle, which she finds horrible and bloody.



Angelique and her friends are flirts- She falls in love and marries. Jacque falls in love as well, and intends to marry. Mary and Gavin develop an attachment.



Mention of the whiskey trade, which is in fact, illegal.



There’s a mention of the revolution in France. Mary catches two thieves, who are punished for their crimes.

There is that underlying tension between giving your allegiance to England or America; Mary is very patriotic, as is her father, and yet she learns to not be lead by prejudice.






Mary and her family attend church and Christmas mass. They pray for those in the war, and there’s a discussion about why God allows certain things to happen.

A story is told of Aboriginal mythology regarding creation.


Overall feel: This book is set in another hard time in American history; another battle to fight and to survive. Neighbour may judge neighbour; native may hate the invader, and yet Mary learns to not judge out of preconceived thought and feelings, and to love and forgive. A satisfying story, and on that us suitable for all ages.

“…We must leave judgement to God, lest we be judged ourselves.”

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