________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009


Chuck in the City.

Jordan Wheeler. Illustrated by Christopher Auchter.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-894778-81-7.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

** /4


Many First Nations children, and the adults who care for them, are eager to find books that feature boys and girls ‘just like them,’ books that reflect their daily experiences. From folklore, history and culture studies to easy readers and novels, books like this are becoming more readily available.

     Here we have a book from two native Canadian talents and published by Penticton’s Theytus Press, a publisher which has a long-established reputation as a producer of First Nations material. It is a new edition of a story which originally appeared in 2000.

     Chuck is a small boy from the country who finds himself, with his mother, visiting Kookum (grandmother) in the city for the first time. Having arrived late at night, he gets up to explore his new surroundings before anyone else is awake.

     The air was crisp and had a strange smell,

      like burnt wood or car smoke, he couldn’t tell.

      There was a street on his left and a street to his right.

      Chuck picked his left and ran out of sight.

     In turn, he is thrilled and befuddled by the sights and sounds of the place, but it is not long before he is totally lost. He recalls from watching television that he should look for a policeman if he is in trouble. An empty patrol car outside –– what else? –– a doughnut shop –– has an inviting-looking back seat. Chuck climbs in and is soon asleep.

internal art     The police officers are unaware of their passenger, but when they answer a distress call from Chuck’s mother, the family members are happily reunited.

     Jordan Wheeler is known for his writing for adults and his television scripts. The illustrator, Christopher Auchter, is a Haida animator and artist who has received formal art training. He was recognized for his work on Jenneli’s Dance, an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon honour book this year.

     This is an original notion, an earnest attempt to show us something new but, all told, an unsuccessful book. The story is told in rhyme, a device which does not always serve a story well, and the scansion and grammar have some problems.

Chuck’s mom awoke by the sound of the door.

She checked the clock –– it was 6:04.


There was building after building, and street after street, and people rushing in cars and on feet.

     For libraries needing material for First Nations users, Chuck in the City is....

Recommended with reservations.

Ellen Heaney is the Head of Children’s Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.

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

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