CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005
Aimed at young adult readers in the 10 to 13 year-old age range, Hudson's Bay Company Adventures is another slender volume in the series entitled "Amazing Stories." These little nuggets of Canadiana are published every month by Altitude publishing. Each book runs from 130 to 140 pages and features true stories of Canadian history and adventure. The volumes are written in a relatively simple and straightforward way. The authors attempt to weave excitement and drama into their tales with varying degrees of success.
Andra-Warner begins her "rollicking saga" with a prologue describing the tragic events at Seven Oaks in 1816. Her account of the event is understandably sketchy since historians disagree as to who fired the first shot and what party was primarily to blame for the "massacre" of Governor Semple and his 20 men. The incident is a dramatic introduction to the fierce rivalry for the fur trade which dominated Canadian history for two centuries.
The author chronicles the launch of the North American trading empire, the early days of the Hudson Bay Company, its fierce struggles first with the French and later with the rival North West Company ending with the historic merger of the two companies in 1821.
In Chapter 6, Andra-Warner devotes 33 pages to the stories of seven remarkable adventurers whose lives provide some interesting insights into the HBC era.
Included in her list are Prince Rupert, Henry Kelsey, and Thanadelthur (a Chippewa woman who worked with Governor Knight in the early 1700's). Perhaps the most fascinating of the adventurers the author profiles is Isabel Gunn, the Orkney "lad" who signed on to the Hudson Bay Company and sailed to Rupertsland disguised as a man in 1806. There, she managed to maintain her disguise for a year and a half before giving birth to a child at the North West Company trading post in Pembina.
There are some significant problems with Andra-Warner's book. In the first place, she does an inordinate amount of tense switching, sometimes two or three times within the telling of one incident. This switching appears to be intentional (perhaps the author hopes to enhance the dramatic impact of the narrative); however, the resulting prose is awkward with an amateurish ring to it. The second problem concerns some sloppy editing which has allowed the following misspellings to appear: "Trois Rivieres" is spelled "Trois Riviers (not once, but twice), and Jean-Baptiste Lagimodiere appears as "Lajimoniere" (also twice). Such errors seriously undermine the educational value of such a book. Another shortcoming of Hudson's Bay Company Adventures concerns the map at the beginning of the volume which fails to show the location of many of the forts referred to in the book. In the light of such defects, librarians might justifiably give this volume of "Amazing Stories" a miss.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.