Summer North Coming
Summer North Coming
Drops giant falling, thunder loud calling, barefoot rain, follow train
Puddles happy dancing
Whiteness wet falling, snow surprise covering
pile high, dig inside
quinzee cozy staying
According to Vox, 90% of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the nation’s border with the United States. In Summer North Coming, Dorothy Bentley’s spare, poetic text and Jessica Bartram’s rich watercolor and gauche illustrations transport young readers to a portion of the country that most of them will have never experienced personally – Canada’s North. And the author/illustrator combo do so by taking readers through the seasons in the North, beginning with summer and concluding in spring.
The somewhat Yoda-esque quality of Bentley’s poetry appropriately slows the pace of the book’s reading so that youngsters can absorb some of the details of Bartram’s artwork. The summer pages are filled with lush greens punctuated by the colours of various flowers, birds and insects before giving way to fall’s more muted palette. Colourwise, Winter North is a contrast of crisp dark nights and day’s snow-blinding whiteness that are both eventually conquered by the warmth oranges of the sun’s spring return.
The book’s principal characters, who are never identified in the text, appear to be siblings, and readers can see how they experience the seasons in this remote area. For example, in the summer, they paddle a boat in the marsh, gather berries, swim in the lake, and play in the rain. Fall finds them helping their father in catching fish to dry for winter food supplies. When winter arrives, more time is spent indoors visiting with family and neighbours from their small community. Outside activities include building quinzees, and the children even get to sleep in a tent when they accompany their dogsled-driving father who is checking his trapline. The book opened with the children paddling a boat in summer, and the spring illustration completes the season cycle as the siblings are seen launching the boat in the marsh.
In terms of both its text and illustrations, Summer North Coming is definitely a book to return to and linger over. Bentley’s words are rich in their sparseness, and Bartram’s illustrations are full of details to be discovered during subsequent readings.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.