CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007
Susanna Moodie: Pioneer Author. (The Quest Library; 28).
Montreal, PQ: XYZ Publishing, 2006.
156 pp., pbk., $17.95.
Moodie, Susanna, 1803-1885.
Frontier and pioneer life-Ontario.
Ontario-Social life and customs-19th century.
Authors, Canadian (English)-19th century-Biography.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Geneviève M.Y. Valleau.
Susanna was now passionate about something too, though it didn't exude any whiff of royalty. Her favourite subject was her own experience as a pioneer in the bush. She had written "Canadian Sketches" with such plain titles as "A Visit to Grosse Isle" and "First Impressions, Quebec." They appeared in the Victoria Magazine and in the Literary Garland. She has kept all her writings about the bush ordeal, and John encouraged her to use them for a book. Why not? Hadn't Catherine published her early letters to England in The Backwoods of Canada?
My book, Susanna reflected, will have a completely different point of view from Catherine's: it will be a warning to the British people who want to become pioneers, not a cheerful book at all.
Anne Cimon's biography about Susanna Moodie's life and writings begins with a description of Moodie's childhood and proceeds to discuss different elements in her life including her education, her marriage, and, of course, her trials moving to Upper Canada and becoming a pioneer.
This biography highlights Moodie's writings and attitudes towards immigrating to a new country. Although Moodie was already a published author when she immigrated to Upper Canada, Roughing It in the Bush is her most known work. This book depicts the experience of a Canadian pioneer and provides an insight into society at the time.
What make Cimon's book so intriguing is the inclusion of numerous photographs of Moodie's family and members of her community as well as paintings both of settings related to her experiences and a still life painting by Moodie, herself. As well, there is a detailed chronology of Moodie's life alongside a timeline for Canada and the world. These chronologies would be helpful in a social studies class as they add perspectives on what was happening around the world during Moodie's life. More importantly, however, Cimon incorporated Moodie's writing into the text as if it is Moodie's internal thoughts on what is going on around her in Upper Canada. This adds an intriguing dimension to Cimon's work and expands the book by offering a new insight into Moodie's writings and experiences.
This book would work well in a social studies classroom. The language is simple, and the reading is enjoyable and educational. The photographs and paintings also allow the reader to imagine what life was like for Moodie during this important time in Canadian history.
Geneviève M.Y. Valleau is currently enrolled in the Master's of Arts programme in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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