CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008
Yikes, Vikings!, the fourth installment in the "Canadian Flyer Adventures” series, chronicles the adventure best friends Matt Martinez and Emily Bing embark on when transported back in time to the year 1001 via their antique magical sled. As each story in the series opens, the children find an article in the old dresser in the attic labeled with a location and year. Once they hop aboard their magical sled and rub the shimmery gold letters around the maple leaf painted on their Canadian Flyer, they are on their way! Rub the leaf Three times fast Soon you’ll fly To the past.
Upon their arrival in 1001, Matt and Emily meet Leif Eriksson on an unknown barren island. After the pair entertain Leif with stories of their time travels, he agrees that the duo can join his men on their journey to the next island where they hope to find more fertile land. The children board the Viking ship but are told they will earn their keep by cleaning fresh fish. The Viking ship sails for three days and arrives to a new land full of salmon, rich soil and grass for grazing cattle. Although finding no grapes or vines bearing proof of the land’s being Vinland, Matt and Emily are convinced this is the same place.
When Gunnar, one of the other Vikings, decides he wants to use their magic sled to transport the bountiful fish, the pair hide the sled in the trees. However, it is not too long before Emily discovers that Gunnar has discovered the sled’s whereabouts, and Matt and Emily race into the forest, hoping to catch him. In order to find their way back, Matt carves their initials and sequential numbers on the trees they pass, hoping to mark a path back. Instead of finding Gunnar, they eventually come upon Tyrkir, a Viking who, the night before, had lost his way in the forest while searching for food. Unfortunately, the children’s directions have become mixed up, and they, too, are now lost. After a little rabbit hops over and steals Matt’s cap, an action leading to a chase, the threesome come upon both grapevines and find their markings which enable them to trace their steps back.
Upon returning to the camp, they discover Gunnar dragging their special sled over rocks and wood stumps, transporting smelly and slimy fish. They trick him into thinking they are helping unload the fish, and then they take off with their magical sled, finally able to dash away back to the future.
Highlights from this series include short chapters and delightful illustrations drawn by Dean Griffiths. “Matt and Emily’s Ten Top Facts” appear at the conclusion of each story, providing additional fun facts about the subject matter. An added tidbit here directs readers to research online how to write their names in runes. The story has both girl and boy appeal and just the right amount of danger and adventure to add to the historical fiction. One point to note: unless the reader bothers with the “So you want to know … from author Frieda Wishinsky” at the end of the book, they won’t find out that Vinland was actually located in Newfoundland and Labrador. Before they embark on their time traveling adventure, Matt relays that a schoolmate has told him that Leif Eriksson and the Vikings were the first Europeans to discover North America; however Wishinsky doesn’t verify that it is Canada. It isn’t until reading this follow-up section that the reader will discover that, in 1960, a Norwegian explorer named Helge Ingstad arrived at a place called L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and concluded that the artifacts found in the area indicated that many of the events mentioned in the Viking sagas were true.
As a side note, Maple Tree Press has created a wonderful website for the "Canadian Flyer Adventures" with links provided for kids and teachers/librarians that is worth seeing (www.mapletreepress.com/canadianflyeradventures).
Saache Heinrich is the Youth Services Manager for Wheatland Regional Library in Saskatchewan.
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