The Bains Series

There are now nine books in the Bains Series and I plan to write another three before the series is completed. These are adventure stories. Each novel has a Canadian setting in the 1870s and each tells the story of members of the Bains family struggling to survive and make a living. For example:

  • Shantymen of Cache Lake is set in the logging camps in what today is Algonquin Park,

  • Danger on the Tracks is about the building of railways and

  • Sioux Winter is an exciting tale about the plains Indians.

These books are dramatic stories designed to keep young readers turning the pages and tell about Canada in an exciting era. To learn more about a book and read an excerpt from the story, click on the title. For more about the series read on.

Background of Series

The main audience for the stories is children aged 9 to 14, both boys and girls, but because of the fast action, and their historical relevance, the books have reached a wider audience of people of all ages. The stories are always told through the Bains children. It is their actions that move the plot and shape the stories.


Settings, particularly wilderness settings, are very important in the books, but the settings are described in a natural way, as the characters would experience them, not as a lecture on geography or economic history. Landscape, the technology of the particular work, and the lives of the people that the kids meet (English, French, Irish, Métis and native people) are all built into the texture of the stories.


There is an emphasis on work and the economic problems faced by the characters. The children in every novel are working at menial jobs. That is characteristically nineteenth century life, but the hardships faced by children of that period are fascinating to modern kids.

The Characters

The Bains children in the stories grow older and more mature as time passes. They learn through their experiences and gradually become better able to cope with what life throws up to them. Every one of the stories has both a boy and a girl as the chief characters, although some of the stories are “taken over” by one of the characters. Harbour Thieves, for example, is Jamie’s book and Meg is a relatively unimportant character. However, that boy/girl pattern is maintained because it gives a broader interest to the stories.The following are brief descriptions of the members of the family who are the chief characters in the stories.

Peggy is a single parent. Her husband, and the father of the children, was killed before the first story, Shantymen of Cache Lake, opens. His death creates the crisis for the entire series. The “breadwinner of the family,” to use a nineteenth century phrase, has been killed, and the children must go to work so that the family can survive.

John appears as a major character in the first three stories. When we first meet him he is an awkward, cautious, physically weak boy more at home in school and family than the rough world of lumber camps, seamen and fishermen, but his experiences toughen him up and we see John change.

Meg is thirteen when we first meet her in Shantymen of Cache Lake. Meg is a rebel, but as the series goes on she changes. When we first meet Meg she is a rebel, but as the series goes on she changes. Meg remains an outspoken opponent of any form of injustice and discrimination, but Meg learns that she has to compromise if she is going to get along in the world.

Jamie is only twelve years old when he is taken by his older sister, Meg, to work in a Montreal shirt factory. Timid and unsure of himself, Jamie must quickly adapt to the brutal world where child labour grinds down the weak and threatens the strong alike. When we last see Jamie in Ambush in the Foothills, he is a resilient, determined character, ready for life as an adult.

Kate is thirteen when we meet her in Prairie Fire! She is in awe of her older brother and sister but is not one to be left behind when it comes either to work or having fun. Kate will appear in the last six stories in the series.

Robbie is the youngest of the children in the family. He will appear as a major character in the last three stories. Robbie is a dreamer who has a real affinity for nature and particularly birds, but the reality of life means that Robbie must live a life of hard physical labour to survive. That life changes him in fundamental ways.

The books:

For a brief description and excerpts of each of the books, click on the titles.