He promised he would be back by the full moon…
But that was days ago and Jason Sharmon’s father has not returned from his prospecting trip. Now fourteen-year-old Jason must battle the Ontario North—and his own fears—to find his dad. Encountering many obstacles along the way, Jason struggles to survive. But when he does stumble upon his father, he realizes things have gone from bad to worse. Is Jason strong enough to do what need to be done to save his sick and injured father from certain death?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In His Father’s Footsteps by Bev Irwin is a sweet, heart-warming story about a fourteen-year-old boy who is forced to grow up fast—and how. When his father fails to come home on schedule from a prospecting trip into the remote forests far from his home, Jason Sharmon decides to go find him. He sets off alone with only his backpack to hike into the forests of Ontario, Canada, traveling to a place he has only been to once before.
In His Father’s Footsteps is a coming of age story about courage, desperation, love of family, and a young boy’s determination not to let fate take its course. It’s fairly short, so I could read it in one sitting, but it’s highly entertaining. A great read from an accomplished author.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Bev Irwin’s younger YA novel In His Father’s Footsteps is touching and inspiring. It’s the story of a young boy’s quest to prove himself to his father and to himself. Jason isn’t your normal 14-year-old. He lives in the wilds of Canada and is used to hardship. His father is a prospector, but he loves his family and Jason knows that he would never intentionally be late coming home, no matter how good the prospecting is. Seeing the fear and despair in his mother’s eyes, Jason decides that he will go and see why his father is so late. He has no idea what he will find if he can even find the remote camp where his father has his claim. But Jason is determined to step up to the challenge and do what needs to be done. As he battles owls, cougars, his own fears, and insecurities, Jason grows up.
Irwin’s character development is superb as always, and her story has a ring of truth. I found myself fascinated with Jason’s adventure and felt like I was right there with him.
He should have been back by now. He said he would return by the next full moon. Eight days had come and gone. His father was never this late.
Jason Sharman stared up at the October sky. The only light came from the pale first quarter-moon that shimmered and quivered in the indigo darkness. Folklore bestowed the moon with magical gifts, personified it, gave it life. Right now, Jason wished it did have special powers. He wished the moon could speak, could give him the answers he needed, tell him the path he needed to take. But first you had to believe, believe in the myths, believe in the magic, and Jason didn’t. He didn’t believe in magic, or myths, or anything else he couldn’t see or touch.
Where are you, Dad? In all the years you’ve been prospecting, you’ve never been more than two or three days late. Did something happen to you? Is the panning for gold so good you decided to stay longer?
The moon remained silent. Jason turned away in disgust.
He thought of his father as invincible. He didn’t remember ever seeing him sick. At six-foot-three and two hundred and thirty pounds of muscle and brawn, his father cut an awe-inspiring figure. And yet, despite his towering stature, he spoke softly, never raising his voice.
Morley Sharman displayed all things a hunter should be—cautious, vigilant, tenacious. He routinely checked and cleaned his equipment, especially his rifle. At home, he never left the rifle loaded, keeping it locked in a gun cabinet. In the same strict way his father lived his life, he obeyed all the safety regulations for firearms. Surely nothing had happened to him.
Despite the cheerful face his mother pasted on, Jason saw how his father’s lateness affected her. But she refused to give voice to her fears. To speak of them might make them real. She kept to her normal routine, cooking their meals, cleaning the house, and making sure he and his brother looked after the animals. She swept and scrubbed the floors daily, constantly cleaning and fussing. Twice in the last few days, she baked shortbread cookies—his father’s favorite. She kept herself and her hands busy, anything to keep her mind from worrying.
As the days went by, it became harder and harder for her to cloak her fears. Jason knew her too well to miss the subtle signs. Her soft brown face, a face so used to smiling and laughing, had deep lines etched beside her full lips. Her mouth was drawn and tight, and ridges had formed at the corners of her soft brown eyes. She wiped her brows as if she could erase the new wrinkles—wrinkles that grew deeper with each passing day. Her round face looked thinner and hollows had appeared in her cheeks. She looked as if she had aged ten years in the last few days.
Jason hadn’t heard her laugh in days. Even the antics of his younger brother, Thomas, and his baby sister, Chloe, brought only a brief smile. Jason found her quietness even more disturbing than the physical signs of her stress. He tried to draw her out, tried to get her to tell him her concerns, but her fears remained unspoken.
She painted on a bright smile. “Your father’s fine. The prospecting is good. Maybe, he’ll bring home so much gold he won’t have to leave for the rest of the winter.” She laughed and ruffled his hair.
Jason saw through the merry smile. Her voice had lost its joyous ring and her eyes clouded over as she turned away. She used a corner of the dishcloth to wipe at her eyes. He watched her cross to the cupboard, and pull down canisters of flour and sugar. He forced a grin. “That must be it, Mom.”
“I’m going to make fresh cookies.”
He didn’t mention the cookie jar already overflowed. She needed to keep busy. She needed to make another batch of her husband’s favorite shortbread cookies. She needed to believe he’d be home to eat them soon. Jason needed to believe it too.
He remembered the day his father left. Though over a month ago, Jason heard his father’s words as if only yesterday. ‘Take care of the family while I’m gone. You’re becoming a man. You need to act like one.’ Those were the last words his father had spoken to him. The last words he’d spoken to anyone before he followed the path behind their house, the path through the woods that led to the property where he and his brother had staked their mining claim.
Jason had been so happy that day. He’d felt grown up for his fourteen years, and he burst with the pride his father felt in him. It made their disagreements over the past few months fade away. That day seemed so long ago. He felt lost and alone. He was not almost a man. His five-foot-six frame might be strong and muscular, but inside he remained a young boy in need of his father.
Where are you? Why haven’t you come home?
Anger rose as Jason thought of his mother and his younger siblings. How could you do this to us, Dad? You should be here to take care of us. I’ve been strong. I’ve worked hard while you were gone. I’ve done all the chores. I’ve kept the woodpile stocked, fed the animals, put rabbit and squirrel on the table. I’ve kept things going while you’ve been gone. Where are you now? This isn’t my responsibility. I don’t want to be in charge anymore.
A small tear tracked its way down his cheek, and slid into his mouth. Jason used the back of his hand to brush the next one away. Glaring up at the soft glow of the moon, he screamed a silent protest.
Friday, January 18, 2013: Ruth Latta of CM Magazine highly recommends In His Father’s Footsteps and gives it 4 Stars.
She says: “Bev Irwin’s In His Father’s Footsteps, a boy’s wilderness adventure story, is a welcome change from the trendier types of teen fiction. I was predisposed to like this story because I grew up in northeastern Ontario, regularly visit family there, and know of teenagers like Jason who live on remote farms in the bush and bus to town schools. As the story opens, 14-year-old Jason Sharman, is worried about his father who has failed to return from a solitary prospecting expedition. His strong, powerful father is skilled at living off the land and supplements their income from their woodland farm in the “near north” part of Ontario by panning for gold on a claim he shares with his brother, George. Jason decides that he and his Uncle George must go and find his father. Irwin, the author, gives very specific detail about the equipment Jason packs for camping out in autumn…Throughout the novel, the author achieves a good balance between the lyrical and the practical. Descriptions of terrain and scenery and sightings of animals close up are alternated with productive activities such as fishing to supplement the rations brought from home. Although Irwin brings “on stage” quite a few animals and hazards in a short period of time, their presence is more convincing than the contrived plot twists I’ve encountered in reading other contemporary teen novels…Highly recommended. READ FULL REVIEW