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Once On This Island (Mackinac Island Trilogy #1)

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  392 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
When war erupts between England and America in 1812, it brings change and uncertainty—even to Michigan's remote Mackinac Island. For young Mary O'Shea, the hardest change is the departure of her father, who leaves Mackinac to join the American Army. With her sister and brother, Mary must tend the farm, deal with the hardships of British occupation, and hope for the safe ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 9th 1996 by HarperCollins (first published September 30th 1995)
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36th out of 333 books — 110 voters
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77th out of 98 books — 65 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 21, 2009 Samantha rated it it was amazing
This book is much better if you've actually visited its setting. Mackinac Island is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Getting a piece of its history, which is also displayed all over the island (including the Fort atop an enormous hill), just adds to being there even if it's only in your mind. I read this a long time ago, but I remember loving it because of the main character's strength and the fact that I've actually been there.
A wholesome historical fiction story set on Mackinac Island during the War of 1812. Using concrete language accessible to elementary and dialectic readers, Whelan illuminates the beauties and struggles of life on a frontier island. Also featured are the conflicted loyalties of Americans, Britishers, Indians and traders as the relationship between England and the United States continues to be defined. Especially delightful for those familiar with Mackinac Island. Recommended.
Jul 24, 2012 Jeanette rated it it was ok
I picked this up at the Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island while I was visiting there. I thought it would be fun to read a book set on the island while I was actually on the island. It is historical fiction so I did pick up a bit of Mackinac Island's history and was able to have a good picture in my mind of what the author was describing while reading this slim novel.
The actual story fell flat for me though. The writing lacked good character development. There was too much telling me how a cha
Apr 02, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
Especially for Michiganders, this is another great historical-fiction novel for young adults. My copy is so well-loved that it is falling apart, and although the subsequent installments of the trilogy don't quite live up to the first book, they are all fun and informative reads.
Aug 22, 2015 Kori rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
**Review may contain spoilers** I loved this! Like most books, it was a little hard for me to get into a first, but I once I did I really enjoyed it. I love a good pioneer/settler story! The ways they prepared for winter and the description of the snow, sky, water, trees, and everything else made me feel very cozy. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Mary encounters the wolf. Something about it was just very winter-y and magical. Whelan seems to do a lot of her books in first person ...more
It's the summer of 1812 and Mary lives on an island with her father, brother and sister. Things are nice enough. Mary loves the island where she has lived all her life, but news comes that war has broken out between America and England.

Feeling a duty to his country and to island which the British have now taken over, Mary's father decides to join the war and fight for America. Mary, her brother and sister are left behind to care for the farm until the war is over.

I think the book was a little sl
Mar 13, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it
gr 4-7 184pgs

1812 Mackinac Island. When the British invade the island, the greatly outnumbered American forces surrender. Mary's father refuses to take an oath of allegiance to England, so he leaves to join the American forces in Detroit. 12 year old Mary, her brother Jacques (15 year old)and sister Angelique (16 year old) are left to run the farm while they are away. Unlike Mary who loves the farm, Angelique wishes to be a lady and flirts with the British soldiers. Jacques is eager to leave the
Mar 14, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
A good book about twelve year-old Mary O'Shea, and her life on the island of Michilimacinac during the war of 1812. She was born on the island, and loved it more than anything. Her mother died right after she was born, so she had to help her father and older sister and brother manage their farm. As British soldiers come and take over the island fort and demand that everyone pledge allegiance to the king of England, Mary's father leaves the island to go and fight for his country. While he is ...more
Miss Amanda
gr 4-7 184pgs

1812 Mackinac Island. When the British invade the island, the greatly outnumbered American forces surrender. Mary's father refuses to take an oath of allegiance to England, so he leaves to join the American forces in Detroit. 12 year old Mary, her brother Jacques (15 year old)and sister Angelique (16 year old) are left to run the farm while they are away. Unlike Mary who loves the farm, Angelique wishes to be a lady and flirts with the British soldiers. Jacques is eager to leave the
It is 1812 and on the island of Mackinac the English have taken the fort. Mary is telling this story of her family's life on the island. Her father won't take the oath of loyalty to the English so he leaves to fight with the Americans in Detroit. That leaves Mary, Angelique and Jacques to tend to the farm. Mary love the farm, Angelique and Jacques don't. They all three work hard to keep the farm up for their father. They endure hardships when supply's start dwindling. They even have to bring ...more
Steve Hemmeke
Feb 23, 2015 Steve Hemmeke rated it it was ok

Fictional story of a family on Mackinaw Island during the War of 1812. It describes well the divided loyalties among citizens, between British, American, trader and Indian, and how this affected people personally. Detail of the farm and trading are quite educational. Young people had to shoulder adult burdens often in these times, just to make ends meet – a sobering reminder of how well we have it today, physically.

Having been to the Island several times, and the forts, this was an interes
Once On This Island is an interesting take on the war of 1812, as told from the perspective of a young girl on Mackinac island. (Yes, I've been to Mackinac numerous times before. The book fails to mention the most important reason to visit the island though: the fudge.) I'd say this is probably middle school level reading. Which isn't to say I didn't like it, but, you know, I sped through it pretty quickly. If you grew up in Michigan in the 90's, I think this book was probably required reading. ...more
Dec 13, 2008 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Read this when I was about 11 or 12 and loved it. It is a children's / young adult book, but I remember that part of the reason I loved it was it seemed a more mature read than what I was typically exposed to at that age. Set during the war of 1812 in Michigan's upper peninsula - especially great for kids living in the area, because they'll get a bit of a history lesson without even realizing it. I hated history class in school, but Whelan makes the local and even international history part of ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile
I picked this up in the juvenile section of my library while searching for books for Rose. I was very impressed with Whelan's writing. This is a short novel about the effects of the War of 1812 on Mary, the young heroine. She lives with her family on a little island in the middle of the Great Lakes that is important for trade. It is a great introduction to historical fiction, and I recommend it to my friends with girls older than Rose. I have never read this author and plan on reading her award ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Ruth rated it really liked it
This in not my favorite Gloria Whelan, but I really enjoyed it. I just wish the other books were all combined into one. Now I have to find the sequels. Indians and British combine against the new Americans. The story takes place on an island between two of the Great Lakes. Not a lot of war, more about the people on the island.
Annette Vellenga
Apr 24, 2016 Annette Vellenga rated it really liked it
the story of the war of 1812 as happened on Mackinac Island. My sweetheart and I spent part of our honeymoon here so it was rather neat reading a story based on this island. it was well written and caused my lad to ask questions. The characters in the story were quite varied, but the love of family for family shone through.
Apr 05, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
It's summer of 1812 and the war between England and the USA has drifted as far as remote Mackinac Island where British troops has captured the island. Young Mary, with the help of her sister, must protect their farm when her father goes off to fight the enemy. I believe that this book is the first in a series.
Janie  R. Freeman
Jun 16, 2015 Janie R. Freeman rated it really liked it
Shelves: mackinacisland
A great historical fiction novel that I really enjoyed reading. It is set on Mackinac Island during the War of 1812. Very descriptive scenery of the island,and the way life was at that time. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Sep 17, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful way to learn the history of not only a place, but an era in our country seldom visited in most school books. The War of 1812, and a 12 year old girl's story of holding down the fort while her father is away fighting the British, is a captivating combo for any young reader.
Dec 30, 2012 Elle rated it liked it
I haven't read much historical fiction on the war of 1812. This was a story of a young woman and her sister struggling to protect their farm when their island is captured by the British and her brother and father leave to fight.
Oct 01, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This book is set during the war of 1812 on Mackinac Island, MI. It's a time period I haven't read a lot and I felt this book really captured the time and place excellently. The characters were great and the plot line was interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Oct 26, 2008 Peachy rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
The protagonist of this book lives a very different life than almost all of the books readers today, but she is very recognizable as a young girl growing up.
Good for history, facing challenges, and working through relationships - especially with one's family.
Dec 12, 2008 Tina rated it really liked it
I am helping in Emma's classroom with a book club and we read this is about the war of 1812 and it's impact on Mackinac Island so it is very interesting to the children and me, too.
Sep 21, 2010 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
This is first in a trilogy set on Mackinac Island during and after the war of 1812. I enjoyed reading about a place I love so much and learning more about its history.
Dawn Roberts
Jul 23, 2013 Dawn Roberts rated it really liked it
Book one of a sweet trilogy about a girl from Mackinac Island. This one takes place during the War of 1812, when the fort is occupied by the British.
Particularly good because it is set during the War of 1812, an event sorely neglected in most grade school education.
Apr 07, 2009 Ppechacek rated it it was amazing
really loved this book when I read it. this book sparked my interest in the historical fiction genre.
Aug 23, 2012 Shelby rated it it was amazing
so far I think it's great I love this story I once read it in school but I don't remember finishing it
Nov 16, 2007 Michelle rated it it was amazing
As a Michigan resident and frequent vacationer on Mackinac Island, I greatly enjoyed this youth novel of a Mackinac family making it through the War of 1812.
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Gloria Whelan is the best-selling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Friutlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square and its companion, The Impossible Journey; Once on this Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; Farewell to the Island; and Return to the Island. She lives with her husband, Joseph, in the woods ...more
More about Gloria Whelan...

Other Books in the Series

Mackinac Island Trilogy (3 books)
  • Farewell to the Island
  • Return to the Island (Mackinac Island Trilogy, #3)

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