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This adventure story occurs during the War of 1812. Sutherland explores the moral and ethical dilemmas that ensue when friends, neighbours and relatives are suddenly declared enemies because of war. The St. Lawrence River is very narrow between Prescott and Ogdensburg, which allows the citizens of both countries to visit and trade back and forth; this situation provides the backdrop for the story.
James Shaw is a 15-year-old Canadian who often paddles his canoe across the river to visit his American friend, Jared Jackson, 14, and his older sister, Leah. Jared's father encourages Jared to do his patriotic duty and join the American army as a drummer. James feels he has to protect his family and the farm they have worked so hard to build, and so he joins the Canadian militia. Both friends know that they may have to face each other on the battlefield. Leah is caught in the middle, torn between her love for her brother and her boyfriend.
The book contains a glossary of military terms used in that era, as well as recommended reading for more historical information on the War of 1812. This book was nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year for Children Award.