CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006
Opening Kidmonton: True Stories of River City Kids is like finding a box of old letters or diary entries in an attic. Each chapters is told via first person from someone living in Edmonton from 1755 through to the present. Linda Goyette's characters speak across time directly to kids of today.
Kidmonton is a part of the Edmonton: A City Called Home project, which coincided with the city's centennial. As writer in residence at the Edmonton Public Library from 2003- 2004, Linda Goyette poured through archives and books looking for kid-friendly stories. A book for adults called Edmonton in Our Own Words is to be published by University of Alberta Press in September.
Goyette's gift is in breathing life into her research -- making interesting characters out of all these names -- and some even not named, as the first chapter features "the first ones," the unknown first children to camp in Edmonton thousands of years ago. The kids are of all backgrounds and circumstances -- a boy who fled Nazi Germany, a boy whose father does not return from the war, a young Native girl, the son of the North West Mounted Police in 1885, the daughter of the baker at Hotel Macdonald -- all kids of who now make a home in Edmonton.
Their stories are told in short first-person narratives, allowing the people to talk directly to their reader, as Jimmy Jock Bird does when he says, "Tell me about your horses. That's all I want to know about you. How fast can you ride? How many horses do you own?" It's this technique that adds to the immediacy and intimacy of the stories, as though the people were whispering their thoughts in your ear.
My personal favourite is the indignation of Edgar Noble over having tobogganing banned on his favourite hill, just because it happens to be a street, increasingly busy with traffic. When a child's toboggan skids under the moving streetcar, the parents pressure the police to ban tobogganing. Anyone who's ever driven or walked along 106th street (with its four lanes of traffic now) could imagine what a phenomenal tobogganing hill it must have been.
In rare cases, this Edmonton focus may alienate readers from other places in Canada who will not be able to relate to the scenery and history. However, the stories are so well-written and so universal in their appeal that this should not be too big an obstacle. In the chapter, "The Chocolate Bar War," the story of kids across Canada boycotting chocolate bars in protest when the candy companies raised the cost of a bar from 5 cents to 8 cents in 1947 is told. Sales fell by 80 per cent. The protest and demonstrations ended when a newspaper in Toronto suggested that grown-up Communists fooled Canadian kids into organized the protest demonstrations.
Robert Nichols provides black and white drawings that may seem rudimentary but reflect the stories and characters perfectly.
The book is written specifically for grades three and four, the grades where Albertan kids typically first come into contact with Albertan history. More information is provided on each story in a section called "What Happened Next?" as well as a glossary of the words from other languages.
Adults will enjoy recognizing familiar names and characters in the stories; kids will enjoy recognizing themselves in these stories.
A wonderful resource for classrooms across Canada.
Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller currently residing in Edmonton, AB.
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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.