CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010
I confess to knowing almost nothing about the explorer Henry Hudson before I read Tundra Books’ new publication, Hudson. As I was neither born nor raised in North America—and despite having lived and taught for a year in an Ontario town called Hudson—for me, the Hudson name most brought to mind a famous Australian Rules footballer who played in the 1970s. As such, I probably approached Janice Weaver and David Craig’s book in a similar manner to that of the children who will read the book—someone reading about a person whose name he had heard, but knowing little else. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to read Hudson. Weaver and Craig tell a fascinating story about a driven, hard-edged man who persisted with his search for the northwest passage, even to the cost of his own life and the life of his son.
Weaver manages to achieve a strong balance between concision and detail and, in so doing, her biography moves along at a satisfying, engaging pace. It is fast enough to maintain the reader’s interest, yet moves slowly enough for the reader to pause and marvel at Hudson’s achievements. This space for reflection is partly provided through the organization of the book into seven chapters. Each chapter is generally only six or seven pages in length, and the pages often consist of full-page illustrations. Weaver skillfully incorporates into her text a selection of quotes from Hudson’s journal and the writing of crew members.
Weaver tells us that there are no known portraits of Hudson that were completed during his lifetime. This obviously presented a challenge to the illustrator, David Craig. Yet Craig’s illustrations perfectly complement Weaver’s text, depicting a proud, ambitious sailor, yet somehow managing to capture echoes of the doomed fate of the man. Weaver and Craig both do a good job in showing the harshness of ship life in the Arctic.
Young readers will enjoy the drama encapsulated within Craig’s attractive full colour illustrations. His colour choices reflect the cold of Arctic exploration and help one to appreciate the enormity of the challenges that Hudson and his companions faced.
Text boxes are sprinkled sparingly within the main narrative. These text boxes provide interesting additional information that helps the reader to gain a greater sense of Hudson and the times in which he lived. In addition to Craig’s artwork, other illustrations are included within the book. Credits for these materials are provided in the end pages.
My one criticism of the book is that I would have preferred additional maps, or more detail to be provided on the map that is included. A large, double-page spread is included in the opening pages, and the routes of two of Hudson’s voyages are marked on the map. I needed a map that actually identified some of the locations mentioned in the text. I also think that young readers would benefit from a map that identifies the locations of such things as the Hudson River and Hudson Strait (Hudson Bay is marked on the map of the voyages). Hudson is a highly readable biography. I expect that, like me, other readers will not only enjoy the book a great deal, but they will learn a lot through the reading experience. Hudson is a terrific book to introduce the reader to the man behind the name. I congratulate Janice Weaver on an extremely enjoyable introductory biography of a fascinating historical figure..
Gregory Bryan is a professor of children’s literature and literacy education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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