The Broken Blade

The Broken Blade

by William Durbin


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In 1800, 13-year-old Pierre La Page never imagined he'd be leaving Montreal to paddle 2,400 miles. It was something older men, like his father, did. But when Pierre's father has an accident, Pierre quits school to become a voyageur for the North West Company, so his family can survive the winter. It's hard for Pierre as the youngest in the brigade. From the treacherous waters and cruel teasing to his aching and bloodied hands, Pierre is miserable. Still he has no choice but to endure the trip to Grand Portage and back.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440411840
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/28/1998
Series: Fiction
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 450,729
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.56(h) x 0.43(d)
Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

William Durbin is a Minneapolis-born teacher and writer who has lived in the lake country of northeastern Minnesota for many years. He has supervised writing research projects for the National Council of Teachers of English, the Bingham Trust, and Middlebury College. He teaches English at a small rural high school and composition at a community college. The Broken Blade is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

"No," Charbonneau bellowed.  Pierre closed his eyes, anticipating the shuddering crunch of a canoe shearing through their hull.  When there was no impact, he opened his eyes just in time to see La Londe leap over the side.  Still clinging to the gunwale, the bowman planted both feet on the slippery boulder, grabbed the projecting bow in his hands, and heaved upward.

As the front of the canoe came free, the fierce backpaddling of the middlemen finally took effect.  The stern swung back just as McKay's canoe brushed past, cutting so close that it knocked a paddle out of one man's hand.

In that same instant La Londe lost his footing.  Before anyone could extend a hand or even cry out, he was gone.

One moment he was there, and an instant later there was only the boulder and a white horsetail of water.

Pierre turned to Charbonneau and yelled, "A rope! Get a rope!" but everyone's eyes were already turned downstream, searching for a reason to hope.

Customer Reviews

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Broken Blade 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Hamburgerclan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The setting is Montréal in 1800. Pierre La Page is a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, who's doing rather well. His father is a voyageur, one of the men who paddle cargo canoes from Montréal to Grand Portage, all the way on the northwest shore of Lake Superior. Well, Dad has an accident that will keep him from shipping out on the next cargo run. Motivated in part by guilt, Pierre skips class, heads down to the North West Company office and signs on as a voyageur to make the money that his father cannot. What follows is a coming-of-age tale as Pierre tries to follow in his father's footsteps. As adventures go, this one is relatively tame. In fact, I would have a hard time pinpointing what made me glad I checked this out. Maybe I just connected with Pierre, subconsciously recalling the times when I was a rookie starting a new job. Or maybe Mr. Durbin just did a good job of drawing me into the tale, so that I felt I was paddling along with the crew. Whatever it was, it worked.--J
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh dear. Great.
hockey22 More than 1 year ago
AWESOME BOOK! This book is a perfect book for people who enjoy history and action. It is about the fur trade in Minnesota and voyageurs. If you read this book you also need to read wintering since wintering starts where Pierre's story left off. Through both books Pierre matures a lot and realizes not all things in life happen how you want them to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
winteringfan More than 1 year ago
I think its a great book here is one part from the broken blade "at the same moment La Londe lost his footing and before anyone could cry out or put out a hand he was gone" that is one of my favariot parts and one of the saddiest on a scale of 1-10 i would give it a 100 it is one of the best books i have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Jacob_J More than 1 year ago
I thought that the book was good. I liked that the setting took place in the 1800's and in Canada, not in the United States like all the other books I've read. But I couldn't follow the characters very well. It started when Pierre woke up and he heard his dad chopping wood. He could smell the fireplace and then he heard a scream. Pierre has to raise money to support his family so he goes work for the great North West Company. The North West Company is a canoe company. He was accepted as a middleman. Then he went from Montreal to Grand Portage. Along the way, he meets all his canoe mates who are La Londe, Beloit, Charbenneau, Larocque, and Bellegarde. He leaves his life as a school student to a hard working middle man in a canoe. Maybe I would read this book again, but a long time from now when I don't remember what the book is about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Broken Blade. I would recommend the Broken Blade to people that are outdoorsy and like canoeing. The author captured my attention by making some of the mean and some nice. I liked how the strong Pierre punched the mean and sour Beloit in the freezing river. The frame of the story was really thought out. Pierre's father chopped off his thumb, Pierre signed on the Voyager portage , Last day at school, First night, Paddling, Second night, Fire jumped, Third night, Rendezvous, Mukwa Feast, dancing with Native american girl, Leaving Rendezvous, Arriving home, Talking with Doctor Gillard, Seeing father. The story was cool because the Character were realted to me Pierre didn't like canoeing and the he loved it. This was a very exciting book and I look forward to reading it everyday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't get ''caught'' by the author. I didn't really care for the book. The book talks about a boy named Pierre. Pierre joins a trading company to help raise money for his family because his dad usually did it, but he couldn't because he got hurt. I would not reread this book because I thought it was pretty boring, but thats just my opinion. I'm more into ghost stories. On a scale from 1-10, I would rate this book at 3. I don't think I'm really ''related'' to anyone in this book, and I do not wish to read this again. I rated this book at 2 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paige24 More than 1 year ago
The Broken Blade was a.... well I didn't really like it. The book was based on a true events. Pierre and his family lived in a log cabin with his mom and dad and two sisters. Pierre was in bed while his father was cutting wood. A short while later he heard his father yell. He mom and sister raced out. His mom sat beside him when he got out there he was told to go get the doctor. He ran as fast as could, and when he reached the doctor's house, he told the doctor, "Come quick, My father was chopping wood and he chopped his thumb off. Its bleeding real bad!" The doctor helped his father wrap it up. Pierre felt like it was was his fault Instead of going to school that day he went to sign up for the North West company voyager trip. Along that trip he faced miles of paddling, uncomfortable beds and long walks with 200 pounds on his back. The book was well written, but I didn't like it. I felt the book was very predictable, parts like where he decided to go sign up and when he returned back a "man." Also some parts got very long and boring. Some parts of the book were very entertaining and made you want to keep reading, but overall I would have to give the book 2 ½ stars.
Emily_R More than 1 year ago
Broken Blade Review The author had my attention at some parts but some parts were kind of dull and boring. The parts that had my attention were most of the main events, like when Pierre left and began his voyage. First Pierre signs to a voyaging company, and then starts his voyage shortly afterwards. The first night camping out, his canoe mates had a fire after dinner and there was a fight. The next morning Pierre was part of a bet because he was a new comer and was the smallest voyager, but he got a reward for succeeding. There was a voyager named Jean Beliot, a French canoe man who gave everyone a hard time, but Pierre decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. Shortly afterwards a loyal French voyager named La Londe drowned. Soon the crew makes it to Grand Portage. Then after dinner, Pierre dances with an Indian girl. Pierre leaves Grand Portage and returns home. Pierre and I relate to each other because of our age and our personality. Charbonneau and I relate to each other because I am helpful and funny. Beliot and I relate to each other because I am a teaser. La Londe and I relate to each other through my friendliness and kindness. I relate to Mc Kay because I am a leader. I would not reread this book even though I liked it, I really like to try different kinds of books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Broken Blade was an okay book but nothing special. I mean Pierre's Dad chopped his thumb off and he had to go to work. I was hoping he would find a different injury that was a little bit more serious. I think the information is good and accurate. This book needs some actual suspense to keep the reader interested. This book really has no suspense. The book takes place during the fur trade in the 1800s but doesn't include a fight with the Indians of the British. I mean you've go to have some action besides going down rapids. The closest thing too battle action was two guys who had been drinking start beating each other up. The action was not satisfying at all. The details were good and the story unraveled well. The broken blade is a good book but nothing special.
Matt-W More than 1 year ago
In 1800, thirteen year old Pierre La Page never dreams he'll be leaving
Montreal to paddle a canoe twenty four hundred miles. This is something
old men like his father do. But when Pierre's father has an accident,
Pierre quits school and enlists as a voyageur for the North West company
so that his family will have money to survive the winter. Life is hard
for Pierre because he is the youngest member. Treacherous waters, aching and
bloodied hands, and the men's cruel teasing make him miserable. Pierre must endure the harsh trip to Grand Portage and back home.

I thought this was a really great book because it had a lot of details. It was an entertaining book that made me want to finish it. This book gets four out of five stars.
Rhianna-T More than 1 year ago
If you like adventure books with a tint of sadness, then The Broken Blade is the book for you.
Pierre is 13 and has to become a voyager to support his family after his father¿s accident. On his journey he makes friends. He also meets a man whose name is Jean Beloit who is a little less than a friend. He is kind of a jerk to be honest.
Charbeneau, La Londe, La Petite, and Bellegarde decide to extend the hand of friendship, while Jean Beloit decides to treat Pierre like dirt. Journey with Pierre as he paddles through the hardships of losing a friend, long tough portages, bloody hands, and hairy soup.
This author can paint pictures in your head of the beautiful Canada Pierre travels through. Even though I liked how the author can paint pictures and made the characters feel real, the topic was boring because I don¿t care about the fur trade and voyagers. If you like books about the fur trade and voyagers or books about that time period with adventure and history (unlike me), this would be the book for you.
Reed-J More than 1 year ago
I hope you like canoeing. If so you¿ll probably like this book. I love the book. It is awesome because it has a lot of adventures. They go through a lot of adventures.
Pierre¿s dad cut off his thumb. So Pierre had to go on a canoe trip as a wigwam. They paddle down dangerous rivers. One of the voyagers died. His name is La Londe. They made a cross out of his paddle. He saved the canoe from crashing into a rock and fell into the rushing waters. The trip was 2400 miles long. All summer they went in the trip. Then I hope you enjoy the book. I gave it 5 stars.
Sheridan-S More than 1 year ago
What if you had to paddle 2400 miles and be with some of the meanest people you would ever seen?! In the book The Broken Blade, a 13-year-old boy name Pierre La Page becomes a voyageur (when his father had an accident) to take care of his family. Pierre and his canoe men have to paddle the rushing rapids, raging waves, and battle the crazy cold. The canoe men are Bellegarde, Emile, Charbonneau, and Jean Beloit, the meanest person on the canoe, to name a few.
Could you imagine canoeing all day long, sleeping under a canoe, and only getting 2 meals each day for 3 months!? Plus, the food wasn¿t that good, as in eating your own pet!
I give this story a 5*****! You will never want to put the book down!
Why is it called the Broken Blade? Read the book and find out!
Justin-S More than 1 year ago
We read Broken Blade. It was pretty good. It is about a boy, Pierre whose dad got his thumb cut off by his own clumsiness. Now the boy decides to help his family out by becoming a voyageur,and going to Grand Portage. He meets some tall and some dirty men. He made some friends like La Londe, a very good voyager and La Petite one of the tallest people he had ever seen.
Pierre is on a journey of his life. There are some men who make fun of him and call him grandpa. When they paddled off, after about three miles his hands were bleeding like all the rest of the voyageurs had on their first trip.
Jean Beloit, was a bully to Pierre, had a fight on the first stop with La Londe. Who almost got killed. Jean Beloit gave him a compliment. He had a nightmare about his dad and his chopped off thumb. He had to ignore Jean Beloit so he wound not be beaten. He went on another day with the hard paddling. He thinks it is never going to end.
The whole book is good except the ending because it was not the most thrilling ending, but other than that it was great. The author made the book exiting and sad which made the book great. Is Pierre going to make it? Find out and read the book Broken Blade.
Kalyn-u More than 1 year ago
If you like adventures books with a tint of sadness then The Broken Blade is the book for you.
Pierre, the main character, is a 13 year old boy in 1800 he went to school for a long time because his parents wanted him to become a lawyer or a doctor. But he wanted to become a voyager to support his family after his father¿s accident. So he said goodbye to his family and left for a 2400 mile canoeing journey. He made an enemy very fast. His name was Jean Beloit. All Jean Beloit did was tease Pierre, and treats him like dirt. Pierre also made many friends. One named La Londe got in a horrible accident passed away. The journey was a hard trip with bloody blisters, hours of paddling, and gross food.
I like this book because it is interesting and is about an interesting journey. I also think this book is a sad story because La Londe dies. I also like it because I got to learn about voyagers and the fur trade. So if you like adventure books, The Broken Blade is the book you should read.
Goyee-X More than 1 year ago
If you like canoeing then you would like The Broken Blade. It¿s about a boy named Pierre La Page, who lives in Lachine, Canada with his father, his mother, and two sisters. It takes place in 1800s. He is about to become a young(13 years old) voyageur because his father, Charles La Page, cut his thumb off. He was a voyageur, but now he couldn't be, and if he couldn't
then his family would not survive the winter. So Pierre decided to become a voyageur for his family and for himself.
First he had to go to where his dad worked and get to know the other people for a day. He went back home on a dark night, and he told his father that he joined. His father was very happy, but his mother was all worried.
The next day, early in the morning, he left to go all the way to Grand Portage. When he paddled, he was a weakling and when days passed he got picked on and bullied. He met new friends that were nice to him and some that were not nice to him like Beloit. One day at the Ottawa River, Pierre¿s friend, La Londe died in the river. La Londe was his best friend. He was kind, helpful, and strong.
I like this book because it goes into friendship, bullying, history, and new adventures!
Kaitlyn-D More than 1 year ago
The Broken Blade is a book about a young boy who¿s father¿s thumb was accidentally amputated by an axe. Not realizing that paddling 2,400 miles a day could be so hard, Pierre takes his father¿s place as a voyager. Pierre goes through many hard times, one when his friend La Londe dies.

Taking on this job was a big step for Pierre. With blisters on his hands, Pierre stays strong. Even a fist fight with Beloit, a mean, grumpy voyager, will not stop him. Filling his belly with duck soup and spoiled corn, Pierre keeps growing and whether or not he makes it home, you¿ll have to find out!

What I like about this book is that it¿s full of history, and has good details about voyagers in the 1800¿s. Overall I rate this book at a four and a half star out of five because I liked how it always kept me wondering. I¿ve read other books that were better, but this one was pretty good. Just jump back to the 1800¿s by reading this book!
David-R More than 1 year ago
Broken Blade was and still is an action packed thriller with a side of sadness when a friend dies that is the broken blade I think it is action packed because at on point they almost sunk so that is why I think it is action packed. And this all started with Charles La Page cutting off his thumb. Charles La Page is the father of Pierre. So Pierre is guilty and so he signs up to be a voyager because he feels guilty for not cutting up the wood himself so he goes on a journey with many surprises and this journey is one he might not come back from. This is a great book to read on your free time. About a lad with a heart of gold. And this book is all about getting to Grand Portage with the furs to trade with the Indians. What this book is all about is also canoeing. It is a very heart warming story. To read on your free time. With a side of Beloit making himself look like a Idiot. In the book it sounds like bellegarde sounds like a great cook! This book has a lot of pranks bets and canoeing.
Karina-P More than 1 year ago
¿Pierre!¿ Mother shouted. ¿Go, now. The doctor¿ As Pierre sprinted down the trail, he thought of the blood at their annual fall slaughter. Reaching Dr. Gulliard¿s house, Pierre pounded on the door. The door swung open. ¿Doctor¿ he gasped. ¿Doctor Gulliard¿¿
The Broken Blade contains historical fiction along with a touch of humor. This book explains how a 13 year old boy ventures out on a heroic adventure down the border of Canada and the US fighting through calluses, blisters and big mouths like Jean Beloit. This thrilling novel starts off with Charles LaPage, a voyageur living with his family in Lachine, Canada around the 1800¿s.
One day Charles was chopping wood when Pierre heard a scream. Charles career as a voyageur took a slide and Pierre had to take charge. The next day Pierre gave up his school life for scrubby clothes, pipe smoking men and long days of paddling. On his adventure along the Canadian border, he gets to experience trading fur goods with Indians, shooting rapids and the death of a brotherly friend.
As Pierre continues his adventure, things might start to fall in place, or maybe they won¿t. I would say that this book is definitely a 4 star book! If you love adventures, and life thrilling stories, go to your local library and check out The Broken Blade. You won¿t regret it!