Standing in the youth section of our local library, I was glancing at the books on display. Having recently read The Summer I Became a Nerd and The Secret of the Old Clock – the first Nancy Drew mystery – I decided this time I should read a book with a male protagonist.
The Boy Kelsey was written by Alfred Silver as part of the Great Plains Teen Fiction series.
I am not typically drawn to historical fiction, but when it is done well . . . that’s an entirely different story. And Silver, a dedicated but not dry historian, knows how to make a story come alive.
Two young people are thrown together by circumstances, one an indentured servant with the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson’s Bay and the other a Cree teen girl.
Can they learn to communicate? Can they learn to depend on one another when there is no-one else left who is able/willing to come to their aid? Can they learn to be friends?
In this story set in the late 1600s, the Boy Kelsey (a name he would very much like to shake) presses farther into First Nations’ territory than any white man ever has. After all, who better to send on a one- to two-year-long journey than a dispensable juvenile? If he succeeds . . . wonderful! If not . . . no loss.
Meyo has issues of her own. A disfigured face. A father who does whatever he deems best for himself no matter who he hurts. Leading this whitefaced boy into hostile territory.
Told through the eyes of both main characters, readers get a glimpse of how strange things must have seemed to both the first white settlers and the First Nations people who had to weigh the pros and cons of trading with those who had built a fort by the salt water.
Both Kelsey and Meyo worked their way into my heart. Their experiences stirred my emotions. Authenticity and genuineness are two things that mean a lot to me. Both the characters and the circumstances they found themselves in rang true.
The Boy Kelsey is a thin volume, less than 200 pages, but it is packed with well-developed characters, believable situations, and detailed scenery.
The author’s attention to detail, to telling the truth as much as possible, and the honest peek into those bygone days easily earns four out of five stars from this reader. I would most willingly read other books written by Silver.