Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold

Written by Jessica Outram
Review by Valerie Adolph

Bernice, the eight-year-old protagonist, lives with her siblings, her parents, and her beloved grandmother in the lighthouse that her father tends on Georgian Bay, close to the U.S.-Canada border. Her family are of Métis heritage, a centuries-long blend of indigenous people and French-Canadian settlers with their own distinct culture. Listening to her grandmother’s stories, she has grown up with a deep love of nature, music, and family.

One night her father rescues a canoeist caught in a storm and brings him home for dry clothes, food, and a good night’s sleep. Bernice is intrigued by this man, who is grateful but who leaves next day mentioning only a treasure he has left in the boathouse. There Bernice sees just a painting of trees on an island. She recognizes the island and believes this to be a clue to finding treasure that could only be gold. She carefully plans to find the gold so she can help her family.

The story covers her careful preparations and, incidentally, much about her heritage. It’s an exciting tale, covering the man who drinks rattlesnake soup and Bernice’s near shipwreck in stormy Georgian Bay. As a story, it will interest readers of all ages, moving deftly between the warm family scenes, industries across the water, and the dangerous storms of Georgian Bay. Interwoven are tales of Métis history and culture, which add to the depth of interest of the story.