Whatever You Do Don't Go Near That Canoe!
Julie Lawson. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman.
Preschool - grade 4 / Ages 3 - 9.
"It's time to go back!" my brother exclaimed. "It's time to be heading for home!"This story begins with the classic admonition: "whatever you do, don't ..." Usually it is a red button that is not to be touched but in this case it is a canoe. The issuer of the admonishment is one Captain Kelsey McKee, the owner of the canoe. And those to whom it is directed are a brother and sister, and a stuffed dog by the name of O'Malley.
But O'Malley knew, and I did too -
That canoe had a mind of its own.
On the star side of morning a shadow appeared, A finger of land looming near; And then, round the point, a sight met our eyes That hammered our heartbeats with fear.
The Captain is a crafty fellow for he knows the irresistable pull of curiosity and, therefore, this admonishment is used not so much to keep the trio out of the canoe as to entice them into it. I won't say anymore, though, because there are surprises in this book that are waiting to be discovered.
Julie Lawson has written a number of children's books, like Kate's Castle, Too Many Suns, The Dragon's Pearl and Fires Burning. For this book she has written an adventure poem that is reminscent of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson. The text flows smoothly with an easy metre that lends itself to being read aloud. Children will not only enjoy hearing this story but older children can probably read it with some help from their parents. The story builds to a suspenseful climax, but all ends well, and so it should hold the listener's attention and interest.
The illustrations by Werner Zimmerman are beautifully evocative. Each double-page spread is covered by one watercolour illustration. They capture the mystery, dark forboding and menacing aspects of the adventure as well as the lighter more convivial parts of the story. Along with the text, they draw the reader and/or listener into the adventure.
All in all, this book should provide great bedtime reading. In addition, it will serve as an introduction to poetry for younger and older children alike.
Kenneth Field is a Librarian at Trent University and Principal of Lady Eaton College, Trent University.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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