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The Word for Home

TitleThe Word for Home
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsClark, Joan
ISBN Number0670911216
DescriptorsCanada; Death; English Language; Families; Historical Fiction; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Novel; St. John's

This historical novel, set in 1926, tells the story of Sadie and her little sister Flora who move to Newfoundland from Canada after their mother's death while their father goes prospecting for gold in the colony's interior. The girls are left in a boarding house in St. John's with a stern landlady named Mrs. Hatch. When their father stops sending money to pay for their room and board, Mrs. Hatch makes plans to send them to an orphanage. Sadie must rally all her courage to save her family. Joan Clark was born in Nova Scotia and lives in Newfoundland.


Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia

Age Range


Author Profile: 

After the death of their mother, Sadie and her sister, Flora, are sent to St. John’s, Newfoundland to live at a boarding house while their father moves to the country in order to support the family. Their landlady, Mrs. Hatch, goes from tolerable to cruel, as she forces the girls to earn their keep through hard labour that they are not yet old enough to do. As tough as their home life is, school is not much better. The girls attend a British school, which enforces strict dress codes and rules for proper behaviour. Their school also emphasizes the importance of money, inevitably creating a class hierarchy between the students. As the girls force themselves to persevere, they hold onto the hope that their father will return for them, that is, until they receive a letter saying that he has set off to search for gold. Without the hope of their father rescuing them, Sadie decides it is up to her to find a way out.


“The night after her father boarded the train, Sadie dreamed that he was a magician performing on the stage of the Casino theatre. There he stood in front of the footlights, looking like a debonair showman in a top hat and carrying a wand, a shining glass globe on his outstretched hand. The globe shimmered with promise and hope, with the fleeting certainty that whatever would make her happy was inside the globe. But then her father, the magician, passed a gloved hand over the globe and poof! Both he and the globe disappeared. Sadie woke in a panic – her chest was tight and she was unable to breathe. She sat up in the chilly darkness and thought, Where is Dad?" (97-98)