CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 6 . . . .November 12, 2004
The "chasse-galerie" or flying canoe is a well-told legend in French Canada. In various versions of the legend, lumbermen make a pact with the devil to fly them home, with uncertain outcomes. Roch Carriere, Canada's National Librarian and author of The Hockey Sweater and other books, has chosen to make a young boy, Baptiste, the hero of this account. Baptiste has been living in a remote lumberman's camp, peeling potatoes and helping with chores, but he is very homesick. When, on New Year's Eve, the lumbermen decide to take a ride in the "chasse-galerie," which, he says is either "the Devil's magic" or "a miracle wrought by God," he goes along.
The lumbermen ride through high winds and snow, bound for Beauce, the small town from which Baptiste comes. However, as they approach the city of Quebec, they can't resist stopping for "just one drink," leaving Baptiste in the canoe. Cold and homesick, Baptiste decides to try to fly home on his own. He reaches the town but can't get the canoe to stop and ends up falling through the ceiling of his house, breaking his leg but establishing a wonderful story for his descendants, one of whom is the narrator.
Roch Carrier's version is fun and lively. While it may be a little wordy for the youngest readers, it is a good read-aloud. Older readers, even those beyond grade four, will enjoy it. The pictures by Sheldon Cohen, a Montreal painter and film maker, are bold, brightly coloured and humorous. They definitely add to the enjoyment of the story. One picture, in particular, deserves mention: the view of the enchanted canoeists paddling through a snowstorm while above them we see all the smiling sweethearts and mothers that await them in Beauce.
This is a delightful story and one that many ages will enjoy.
Helen Norrie, a former teacher/librarian who has taught Children's Literature at the University of Manitoba, 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.