________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 22 . . . . February 12, 2010


On a Canadian Day: Nine Story Voyages Through History.

Rona Arato. Illustrated by Peter Ferguson.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press/Owlkids Books, 2009.
96 pp., pbk. & hc., $19.95 (pbk.), $29.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897349-51-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-897349-50-2 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Marilynne V. Black.

*** /4


His father led his group of hunters carefully in behind the herd, as the buffalo runners guided the animals between two lines of stone cairns, or walls. These cairns had been used for hundreds of years to lead buffalo toward a steep cliff. Once they were inside, the hunters would frighten the animals from behind to panic them into a stampede. Today, they did the same as the herd galloped into a tight column within the walls. "Wait," his father cautioned. "We do not want them to stampede until the last possible moment."

The hunters followed carefully behind the herd as it moved closer and closer to the edge. Little Wolf clutched his robe tightly in his sweating hands. This is what he would use to help urge the buffalo into a full stampede. His quiver full of arrows was slung over his shoulder. Looking at the huge animals, he hoped he wouldn't need them. His uncle came up beside him.

"Remember, young one," he whispered, "these animals are very dangerous when frightened. When we start the stampede stay alert and out of their way!" Little Wolf swallowed hard and looked at his uncle, who flashed a smile, then turned his full attention to the giant herd. It was time.


Told from the perspectives of fictional 12-year-olds, these nine stories take the reader through significant periods of Canadian history from 1620 to 1979. The first tells of a young Aboriginal boy, Little Wolf, becoming a buffalo hunter, and the last is about a young boat girl, Lan, fleeing Vietnam. Also included are the stories of habitants, pioneers, the Underground Railway, the Dust Bowl, and Japanese internment camps. Each story is told in two ways. The first takes you through the morning, afternoon, and evening of a typical day in each child's life giving insight into that period.

Life on the Plains is difficult. Our winters are long and cold and summers hot and dry. There is little natural vegetation, and our people rely on buffalo for most of our needs. We kill only as many as we need and use every part of the animals we do kill.

     A full page portrait of the character accompanies this segment.

internal art

     The second account, a double-spread page, reads more like a diary, but yet again, it imparts much information. Details of everyday life, such as food, clothing, methods of transportation, and daily experiences, common to children of that period in time, are well documented.

     This unique book is attractively designed. In addition to the portrait of the main character, the text pages are bordered in different colours for each story. Titles, subtitles and quotations are colour-matched. The second account simulates a somewhat wrinkled document on a colourful background. The font, resembling hand written text, accents the sense of an actual child writing the account. Also included is a small "snapshot" version of the portrait, a rough map locating the general area where the story takes place as well as archival photographs and a painting or copies of archival documents. For instance, in "A Part of the Land: Plains Aboriginal People," a photograph shows a native person beside two decorated tipis while another shows a number of artifacts made from buffalo. The painting depicts the buffalo being stampeded by the hunters. Each illustration is labeled with red print.

     This book will be a useful addition to social studies classes and for general recreational reading. Each initial story is sufficiently long, approximately six and one-half pages, allowing the reader to obtain insight into each historical episode. The author, Rona Arato, brings her careers as "a former teacher" and an "author with a strong interest in the field of human rights" adeptly to this undertaking. The information about each time period will appeal to young readers as the stories give the sense of a real child living a much different life than that of most modern children.


Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children's Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005. She is now working as an independent children's literature consultant with a web site at www.heartofthestory.ca.

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.