Monday, February 18, 2008

Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île written by Anne Renaud

I'm glad to be taking part in the fourth Nonfiction Monday roundup, hosted at Picture Book of the Day.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Lobster Press (May 25, 2007)

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know very much at all about Canadian history, so I was excited when I received a copy of Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île the first book in Lobster Press’s Canadian Immigration Series.

Organized into different time periods, the book tells us the story of the island, from its first use as a quarantine station for cholera in the early 1800’s to a biological weapons research site during WWII to its opening to the public as a historic site in 1988. Perhaps the most compelling part of the book is the story of Grosse Île’s function as a quarantine site and hospital to care first for European immigrants with cholera and then immigrants struck with typhus as they traveled to Canada on cramped and unsanitary “coffin ships” in attempt to escape the Irish Potato Famine. Located 50 km from Quebec, this was an ideal location to quarantine and treat the sick immigrants and prevent the illnesses from spreading to the colonies. We learn in the book whether or not this was successful and also how, over time, the island advanced.

In addition to the main narrative, the book is loaded with images, journal entries, timelines, posters, and more that give readers a better idea of life on Grosse Île. In addition, a “History Note” sidebar on nearly every page gives tidbits of historical information.

Presenting a human face to immigration, this would make an excellent choice for anyone wanting to learn or teach about immigration, Canadian history, epidemics, and more.

Lookout for the second book in the Canadian Immigration Series: Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far due out in April, which I’ll be reviewing soon.


  1. I am fascinated by this book. I love history and immigration, in particular. I gravitate to books that talk about a place over time. Thanks for the recommendation!

    I will be checking in on your blog more frequently.

  2. Karen,
    Thanks for stopping by! I think you'll really like Island of Hope and Sorrow. Let me know what you think when you get it!


  3. I have to admit, I don't know much about Canadian history myself. This book seems like it would be interesting -thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Lori,
    Thanks for visiting...I'm interested in seeing what you think about it!