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Children's Fiction Pre-confederation (to 1867)

The Lookout Tree

A Family's Escape from the Acadian Deportation

by (author) Diane Carmel Leger

Nimbus Publishing
Initial publish date
Jul 2019
Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Military & Wars, General, Prejudice & Racism
Recommended Age
8 to 12
Recommended Grade
3 to 7
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2019
    List Price

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It's 1755, and twelve-year-old Fidèle's life is quiet and pastoral—until a sudden shift in the political situation brings chaos to Acadie. The English are hunting down and deporting all the Acadians, and the only way to escape is to run far away or to live in the wilderness.

Fidèle's parents are taken by the English along with their newborn baby. He, his sister, Prémélia, their grandfather, Pétard, and elderly Rosalie decide to brave life in the forest near their burned-down house in the hopes that their family members will return one day. Life in the woods is harsh and unforgiving, and they only survive with the help and knowledge of their Mi'kmaw friends and a mysterious spirit who appears during times of dire need.

Spanning two decades of the terrible events of the Deportation and the long struggle to reunite and resettle afterward, The Lookout Tree is an English translation of the beloved French classic, La butte à Pétard, and a testament to the determination of the Acadian people to survive and thrive in their homeland.

About the author

For twenty years, Diane Carmel Léger lived in Victoria, British Columbia, where she taught French Immersion and wrote books in both French and English.Yet, it was her homesickness for the Maritimes that led her to writing over twenty-five years ago. Diane is now living near her native village of Memramcook which was called la-butte-à-Pétard before the deportation of 1755. La butte à Pétard, the French version of this book, is an Acadian bestseller.

Diane Carmel Leger's profile page

Excerpt: The Lookout Tree: A Family's Escape from the Acadian Deportation (by (author) Diane Carmel Leger)

Chapter 1: Fidèle's Mission

Eleven-year-old Fidèle paddles down the winding Memramkouke River. His father has entrusted him with an important task. He must find Kitpou, a Mi'kmaw man who may have the latest news since the British capture of Fort Beauséjour. Has war broken out again between France and England after forty years of peace?

The waves grow larger as Fidèle nears Chipoudie Bay, where the Memramkouke River meets the Petcoudiac River. Near la Pointe Rocheuse, the wigwams appear to have been abandoned. Have the Mi'kmaq changed campsites here as they did at la Butte-à-Pétard?

Fidèle notices a thin line of glistening mud on the shore. The tide is going out, he thinks. I should be going back. The tide falls very quickly in this part of Acadie. Twice a day, the rivers of the Baie Française drain to almost a trickle. One must know them well before venturing out in a canoe. Wisely, Fidèle turns the canoe around.


The boy turns to see a canoe rounding the rocky point. It is Kitpou! Fidèle, relieved and pleased with himself, breaks into a wide grin. Now he can get the news his father wants. He paddles towards Kitpou, but his relief turns to fear upon hearing his friend's words.

"The Redcoats are capturing Acadians!" shouts Kitpou. "More ships are anchored at Fort Lawrence and Beauséjour! They could be here as soon as tomorrow!"

Kitpou points to the river and says, "You warn them on the Memramkouke! I'll warn them on the Petcoudiac!" Then, with great strokes, he turns back.

The boy's heart beats faster than ever as he paddles with all his strength. This is not the news Acadians expected. Soldiers are not just fighting soldiers anymore. This time, British soldiers are after Acadians! Will he be able to warn all of the Acadian families along the crooked river, with its many twists and turns slowing him down?

With fear fuelling a newfound strength, Fidèle continues on the Memramkouke. Just past la Pointe-à-Boulots, he shouts to some farmers baling hay in the marsh.

"The Redcoats are coming to capture us!"

The men wave back and run toward their farms. One of them heads toward the church to ring the bell. Fidèle will not need to alert anyone for some distance. He is able to reach the riverside just below his village before the muddy riverbed stops his canoe. Fidèle warns more Acadians in the marshes as he runs home to la Butte-à-Pétard.

He wishes he could run as fast as his mind is racing.

What is going to happen to Acadians? How can they escape? Farmers can't fight soldiers! There are way more children than adults! Little children can't run fast. And they are noisy and cry a lot when they are scared. Mon Dieu! What about Maman, who will be having her baby soon? Babies cry all the time!

His heart beats quickly. With a sudden burst of strength, Fidèle runs faster. Tears fly from his cheeks. Papa will know what to do, he keeps reminding himself.

Meanwhile, in the upper marshes of the Memramkouke Valley, Fidèle's father, Jacques; his grandfather, nicknamed Pétard; and their neighbours have finished baling the hay. After a long day's work, they head toward their thatched-roof houses for a hearty supper.

Jacques teases his father, Pétard: "Will you be having supper with the widow Rosalie this evening?"

Pétard answers with a grin, "I sure would like to, but I'm afraid she would slam the door in my face! She's no delicate rose, that Rosalie." He bursts into his very peculiar laugh: "Cla! Cla! Cla!"

Above the laughter, Jacques and the men hear someone calling faintly: "Papa! Papa!"

Jacques turns and sees his son running towards them across the marsh. Fidèle is clearly distressed and worn out from running. Jacques runs towards his son and the men follow.

When he reaches his father, a breathless Fidèle manages to say, "Soldiers are coming to get us, Papa! Maybe tomorrow...Kitpou warning Petcoudiac...Me, Memramkouke...Upper farms don't know...."

"Mon Dieu!" cries out Jacques. He embraces his son and says, "You've done well, Fidèle. Someone else will run to the upper farms." To the others he says, "The rumours were true! The Redcoats are after all of us!

"I knew not to trust that devil Lawrence!" yells Pétard, livid. "Even the English in Halifax don't like him! That wolf has been planning all along to get rid of Acadians and steal our farmland!"

Some men swear and others wail.

Jacques sends a volunteer to the next hamlet and Pétard yells to the young man, "Just tell Ti-Pruce. He can warn the rest of his neighbours at La Montain!"

A few men start to panic. "There must be a misunderstanding. A lieutenant-governor can't do that to his own British subjects, let alone our families here in French Territory. We're not criminals!"

One shouts, "Lawrence waited for harvest time so that the British soldiers could take as much as possible from us!" Another adds, "After living with them peacefully and feeding their soldiers for forty-two years!" More swearing.

A man laments, "If we flee, our families will be hunted like animals."

Another cries, "Oh non! Mon Dieu! Such cruelty to innocent women and children!"

Pétard tries to calm them. "Listen, men! We're lucky that we have enough time to set up a good hiding place up the muddy stream. The sooner we leave, the better."

Not having much choice, the men nod in agreement.

Pétard turns to his son and asks, "Jacques, what are you going to do?"

"The midwife was by this morning. She said Marie will be giving birth this evening and must stay in bed, or she'll die in childbirth. Marie and I will remain here until the child is born. I don't want to risk losing her or the child. We've been through this before without a midwife. Don't worry. We'll join you before morning."

The men rush home, dreading to tell their families the terrible reason for their escape to the woods.

The people of the Memramkouke Valley cannot believe they must leave their homes. The men and women brace themselves to be very strong for their children's sake, knowing that this night and the ones that follow will be very difficult.

Editorial Reviews

"Leger packs a lot of history into this relatively short novel, but the accuracy and details enable the Acadian Expulsion to come alive as the reader progresses through the story. The Lookout Tree is a perfect novel to accompany history lessons exploring the 1755 Acadian Expulsion, suitable for upper elementary and middle grade students." —Resource Links (Pouch Cove, NF)

"While young readers may be familiar with the details of the Deportation of the Acadians in 1755, native New Brunswicker Diane Léger's account of this family's ordeal puts a personal face on the terrible event and provides a thoughtful depiction of what it meant to those affected: the initial shock and disbelief; the confusion, fear and anguish as families were separated; the feelings of betrayal and sadness at the incredible injustice of it all. She also highlights the support they received from Mi'kmaw friends who were themselves all too familiar with the scenario of being hunted by English soldiers. A very accessible account that humanizes this particular piece of Canadian history." —Atlantic Books Today (Halifax, NS)

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