________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006


Kidmonton: True Stories of River City Kids.

Linda Goyette. Illustrated by Rob Nichols.
Edmonton, AB: Brindle & Glass, 2004.
119 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-9732481-7-3.

Subject Headings:
Edmonton (Alta.)-History-Juvenile literature.
Children-Alberta-Edmonton-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

**** /4


The Day the Edmonton Police Banned Tobogganing 1909

If you live in Edmonton you might know the steep hill on 106th Street downtown.

Do you call it Edgar Noble's Hill? Probably not. It happens to be my favourite sledding hill, but I don't expect Edmonton will name a hill after a kid like me.

Until last week all of my friends at MacKay Avenue School loved to toboggan right down the middle of 106th Street at top speed. Sometimes we had a little trouble. One night Wop May's sister slammed her sled straight into a horses' hitching post, and broke her leg. Most of the time  we just had fun. The coasting was best after supper in the dark.

The trouble is that Edmonton is growing in too much of a hurry. We have 18,500 people here now, and a few dozen automobiles. Have you ever noticed that Edmonton's drivers never watch where they're going? Some of them drive twenty miles an hour! Every day I see another automobile scaring the freighters' horses half to death.

We have streetcars in Edmonton, too. A ride costs a nickel. To celebrate the first streetcar ride, the city held a running contest. The conductors said all boys and girls who could run along beside the streetcar from Jasper Avenue, down 109th street, along 97 Avenue, and over the Low Level Bridge, would get a free ride back to the north side of the river.

All of my friends tried to do it. I ran like the dickens, but I was out of breath before I reached the Low Level Bridge, I had to walk home with slush in my boots.


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.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller currently residing in Edmonton, AB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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