Lamplighter

 

Bernice's research for this book basically amounted to listening to her 95 year old father reminisce about his boyhood. Their ancestors were pioneers who settled in Muskoka, and built a log cabin which still stands on 7 acres of crown land. All she had to say was, “Tell me what it was like when you were a boy, Dad,” and crystal-clear details about life, now over a century ago, sprung from his old, muddled mind. This is the story of Wee Willy, a six year old who lives in Muskoka in 1888, a time before electricity or running water. The family takes the long trek to Toronto, which inspires Willy to dream of being the lighter of the city streets' oil lamps when he grows up.

 

 

The Railroader

 

Skippy Skinner lives next door to the railroad tracks. He can never settle down to sleep until the last train of the night, the Moonlighter, goes thundering by his house and its high-pitched whistle fades into the distance. Skip dreams of being a railroader when he grows up. So he makes friends with Charlie, the Watchman, and learns all about railroading from the old veteran. Then, a sudden act of bravery gives Skip the opportunity to realize his dream.

 

 

The Fire Fighter

For The Fire Fighter, Bernice interviewed her friend’s husband, who had been Toronto’s fire chief in the 50’s. Terry, an orphan, is being raised by his aunts, so he is drawn to heroic Joe Hancock, a firefighter at Station 14, to be his male role-model. The clanging bells and screaming sirens fill Terry with excitement, as he chases the fire trucks on his bike to the scene of the fire, or the crime!

 

 

Hawk and Stretch

Hawk and Stretch is set during the Second World War and revisits Booky's family on Veeny Street, but Booky's youngest brother, Billy (Stretch) is the hero. He and Danny (Hawk) who is one quarter Mohawk Indian, are as opposite as two boys can be. Stretch is tall and skinny and not a very good fighter. Hawk is stocky and tough and afraid of nobody. They come from very different homes and backgrounds, but in spite of this they manage to forge a bond of friendship so strong that it lasts a lifetime.

 

 

Amy's Promise and Janey's Choice

 

Amy is twelve years old when the story begins, but she was only six when she made an important promise to her dying mother. Amy’s Promise and Janey’s Choice were based on the story of Bernice's cousin, Annette, whose mother had died in childbirth. Being the eldest girl, she was left to help her cranky Gramma raise her younger siblings, which was not unusual in those days. To make matters worse, her father “took to the drink” and rarely left his darkened room after his wife died. In Janey's Choice, little sister Janey, the heroine, is shunted between two families in Winnipeg and Toronto.

 

Two Much Alike and It Takes Two

Two Much Alike and It Takes Two are cross border stories depicting the antics of twins, Bernice's American nieces, Margaret and Mary. It is set in Detroit in the 50’s. Connie and Carrie can trade places and fool everyone. They seem to know each other's thoughts and even have their own special language. However, Carrie secretly yearns for independence from her sister and best friend, Connie.

 

 

The Runaway

 For The Runaway, Bernice flew to England to interview the husband of a friend who had moved away from Swansea before the war. He had been raised in an orphanage and was constantly in search of his mother even though she had placed him in "The Home for Unwanted" as a baby. Neville, the real-life character, now in his seventies, was thrilled that he had become the hero of a book and flew to Canada to attend the book launch.