This riveting book about a young heroine relates the historical account of the siege, by Mohawks, of a small French fort in “New France” during the French and Indian War. For an entire week, fourteen year old Madeleine de Vercheres and her two younger brothers Louis and Alexandre, with the help of an elderly man and their family cook, convince the Native Americans that the fort is well protected.
Her father is away fighting in the war, and her mother gone to attend to family business, trusting that the small group of soldiers who live at the fort would defend the settlement. While the commanding officer is away hunting with most of his men, the Mohawks appear outside the fort. Madeleine, as the oldest member of the family present, “takes command” and saves the women, children and two cowardly soldiers within the fortress by organizing her “troops” into what appears to be a strong garrison. Knowing that should the Mohawks attack, they will be captured and probably killed, the children spend each night standing guard at the fort’s towers, creating enough noise and activity to give the impression that all is well within the settlement walls until help arrives.
The courage and daring of the three Vercheres children surpasses all expectations. Determined to save their home and the families who depend on their father for protection, they face exhaustion and fear like true heroes. Louis (age 12) and Alexandre (age 10) use their wits and imagination to fool their would-be attackers, thus preventing a tragedy. Madeleine’s ability to take control of a desperate situation, while all the adults around her panic, inspires admiration in the reader. She proves to be a true leader, who puts the needs of the others before her own.
Never once does she think about herself. She demonstrates compassion under duress, even going so far as to defend the Native Americans whom she sees as victims of a political struggle in Europe. Her faith in adversity enables her to remain calm and gain the respect and obedience of everyone in the fort. It is no wonder she is considered a great figure in Canadian history. That said, the book should appeal to boys as well as girls since Madeleine’s brothers play a key role in the story.