CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011
This picture book presents a charming depiction of a young Métis boy, his year of chores and joy living with his grandparents, and the incremental building to one of the most important family oriented traditions, Christmas and the serving of La Pouchinn (pudding). Written as a poem, the text falters once in awhile as the author seems to be overreaching for a rhyme or rhythm to complete the four line stanzas presented on each page. The illustrations in the first part of the story are double page spreads that fill the available space with colour, texture, and flowing shapes. Here the poem comes alive with the illustrations extending the brief descriptive stanzas. As Christmas approaches in the chronological sequence of the story, the double page spreads disappear to be replaced by full page spreads focussing on singular activities and characters. These illustrations are still filled with the various shades of golds, greens, blues, and whites of the previous illustrations and the same textures and swirls brought to life through the use gouache and transparent watercolours.
Christmas La Pouchinn includes a page of "vocabulary builders" of an assortment of terms used in the text. While some of these words are illuminating, others seem to be for a much younger reader than intended by the book, itself, such as the definition of a cabin as "a home made of logs." Also included is a recipe for La Pouchinn which includes both Imperial measurements and traditional measurements. I delighted in the comparison between the three types of measurements: ½ cup of margarine (125 ml) is much more expedient than "handful of crumbled moose fat" for this cook. A brief author's note about the importance of Christmas in her Métis community rounds out the package.
I have a few reservations with this book. There is no punctuation within the poem at all: the numerous verses read as one long sentence. As well, the word Pouchinn is misspelled (Puchinn) on the spine of the book. The back cover states that the book includes a Michif "vocabulary guide" and three recipes, but there are only a few Michif terms in the guide, and the three recipes are all for the same item, just using the three different system of measurements.
Recommended for library collections focussing on Métis resources, Christmas traditions, and Canadian illustrators.
Recommended with reservations.
Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of nine books on storytelling and folklore.