Eleanora's Diary: The Journals of a Canadian Pioneer Girl
Originally published by Scholastic Canada in 1994;
Republished by Burnstown Publishing House, June 2020
Think of it, a ten year old middle child in a big emigrant family from England began a diary in 1833, and her genuine record of life almost 200 years ago has survived! Some journals in modern times are fictional, but this one is the Real Thing, revealing real human beings in all their various conditions.
Eleanora Hallen pens her copybook sentences or doodles, both thoughtful and silly. She makes cartoons and ink blots; crosses words out or misspells them; gets excited, bored, sick, jubilant, or sad. Sometimes she is a merry reporter or opinionated commentator; other times simply a reflective voice whose comments and drawings reveal a great deal about her world. Her record starts in the old country, continues while crossing the ocean and from late 1835, is rooted in Upper Canada.
Not only is Eleanora's an authentic voice from the past, but Author Caroline Parry skillfully assists us to understand her diary-keeping friend's context and import, so we can interpret what has come down to us from the Hallen family.
Parry has carefully interwoven her own voice, questions and answers in between Eleanora's journal entries, covering in particular the year 1835, when Reverend George Hallen, an Anglican clergyman from Worcestershire, his wife and ten surviving children set sail across the Atlantic, travelled up the Hudson, and into what today is Ontario's Simcoe County, west of Lake Simcoe. Members of the Hallen family began pioneer life in Medonte Township and finally settled in Penetanguishene, on Lake Huron, where our diarist died at 23.
The 219 page book, lavishly designed with period illustrations and artifacts, is divided into five parts. Moving from "Introducing Eleanora" to "Canadian Rusticity," Parry, like Eleanora herself, can be reflective or funny. This unique book ends with an Epilogue, an Appendix which includes photographs of Eleanora's original copybooks and various transcriptions, and a Glossary. Points to puzzle over are cunningly marked, and helpful maps well-placed.