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Amanda Cetas
Thrown to the Wind
Based on true events, this story traces one boy’s journey from France to America in 1660 as he finds the courage to save himself and those he loves. Etienne Gayneau is an awkward and insecure boy bullied at his Protestant school in La Rochelle, France. He has only one true friend, his Catholic cousin, Nicolas. Together they dream of becoming musketeers in the king’s guard. But as the young King Louis XIV begins to assert his authority, he proclaims all protestant beliefs heresy and begins a program to eliminate this religious threat in France. Forced to flee in the dark of night, Etienne’s family leaves behind everything Etienne has ever known and loved to face unforeseen dangers that turn their lives upside down and force Etienne to reevaluate his dreams as he must take action to save his family.
Using her genealogy research as a blueprint, Cetas builds the foundation for the A Country of Castoffs series with Thrown to the Wind, a middle grade historical novel that blends a coming of age first-person narrative with the kind of nail-biting adventure that would appeal to her 9-year-old hero-in-waiting. In October 1660, Etienne Gayneau rushes through the cobblestone streets of La Rochelle, France, to the harbor, where a ship carrying King Louis XIV’s fabled musketeers is docking. He senses that something momentous is happening, but doesn’t realize that their arrival will send his Huguenot family into exile, fleeing first to Amsterdam and then across the Atlantic to the Dutch colony on Manhattan Island.

Cetas introduces Etienne as an insecure boy cowering in the imposing stone city, with its rigid social structure and history of religious oppression. His father’s stubborn adherence to Protestantism separates Etienne from his Catholic cousin (and only friend), and instead of finding solace among fellow Huguenots, he’s bullied for being a poor artisan’s son.All Etienne knows for certain is that he doesn’t want to be like his stern, imposing father, a builder of stone and mortar potager’s stoves, whose rigid work ethic is second only to an unwavering devotion to God. Cetas skillfully plots Etienne’s journey as an uphill climb full of switchbacks, with determination gradually replacing indecision, and a clear-eyed faith supplanting fantastical visions.

Thrown to the Wind proves an apt title, capturing the refugee’s plight: upheaval and uncertainty, exhaustion and anxiety, trepidation and hopefulness. Cetas’s debut also details the era’s arduous shipboard travel: instead of feeling unmoored, Etienne quickly finds his sea legs and gains confidence as a cabin boy who can cope with precarious situations. Recreating her ancestors’ path from persecution to possibility, Cetas focuses on a boy who doesn’t fully understand the historical forces affecting his family, but methodically charts his own course to maturity.

Takeaway: The vivid story of a boy discovering his value on the perilous voyage of early American settlers.

Great for fans of: Kathleen Benner Duble’s Quest, Elizabeth George Speare’s The Sign of the Beaver.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-