Written for ages 8 and up, Island Kids is history of the most memorable kind: Stories about Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands told through the eyes and words of children. The book includes 22 narratives, from a Haida creation story to a tale of Luna the Whale swimming in the waters at Gold River.
The young writer does not shy away from unhappy events, including stories about residential schools and the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Some of the other events described include the Ladysmith chocolate strike of 1947 and the tsunami that washed through the streets of Port Alberni in 1964.
One of the more remarkable tales told is of little Emma Stark, the daughter of former American slaves who moved to Saltspring Island to avoid bounty hunters in California. She attended classes in a log schoolhouse where her teacher was John Craven Jones, a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio.
The schoolmaster offered his charges instruction in Latin, philosophy and human rights, a rich education that would have been the envy of even some of the wealthiest white citizens in nearby Victoria.
Two black men were later murdered on the Stark farm, mysteries unsolved to this day, so the family fled to a more remote locale.
"The story tries to imagine what it would have been like for her to be in so wild a place, so untamed," Ms. Saracuse said.
The girl eventually moved to Vancouver Island with her father, Louis, in about 1875, becoming a teacher herself at Cedar, south of Nanaimo. She died in 1890, aged 33.
The Starks' tale can be told because her mother, Sylvia, left reminiscences rich in detail about family life.
While the children's history book is described as creative non-fiction, the author has composed a fictitious conversation among the Stark children. The end of each story includes a section titled "What do we know for sure?" in which the fictive is separated from the historical.