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Trapper Boy

Novel and Teacher Resource

Middle, Secondary


Set in a 1920s coal-mining town, Trapper Boy is the story of thirteen year-old JW Donaldson, a good student with big plans for college and adventure. As the school–year ended in 1926, JW was looking forward to a typical summer of fun with his friends; unaware that events were unfolding that would upend all of his dreams. The local mine manager had been cutting work hours and JW’s parents eventually found themselves unable to make ends meet and with no other options available, they made the agonizing decision to send their son to work in the mine. As JW struggles with crushing disappointment, adult responsibilities and dangerous working conditions, this heartwarming story reveals ‘life underground’ and raises important social justice issues. While the story takes place in rural Nova Scotia, the setting could be anywhere in the world where families are forced to depend on an extraction industry for jobs.

A comprehensive Teachers’ Guide to support the use of Trapper Boy in the classroom is available from the publisher.  It offers a range of learning activities that address Language Arts outcomes in the curriculum and connect themes from the novel to relevant local and global issues in the context of sustainable development.

General Assessment

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This is an expecially compelling story that middle school students will relate to and enjoy.  The novel and the accompanying teachers' guide are excellent tools for addressing Language Arts outcomes at the middle school level. The book also provides a meaningful context in which to explore issues such as social justice, child labor and the rights of workers.

Relevant Grades and Subjects

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a grade listed below.

  • Step 1Select a grade level
  • Grade 7
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • English
    • Geography
  • Grade 8
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • English
    • Social Studies
  • Grade 9
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • English
    • Social Studies

Themes Addressed

  • Economics (1)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Social Justice