Steel Drums And Ice Skates.
Dirk McLean. Illustrated by Ho Che Anderson.
Grades 1 - 4 / Ages 6 - 9.
Holly jumped up and down with joy, "I'm going Canada! I'm going Canada!" she shouted. Holly had been living with Tanty Millie in Trinidad for a few years after her parents left for Toronto. Now she was joining her parents in Toronto!Holly has spent her life in Trinidad. When her parents came to Canada to find work, she stayed behind with her Tanty Millie. One day, just before the holidays, her parents send for her to come and join them. Holly wants to pack all her possessions into the biggest suitcase she owns: her calypso and steelband tapes, a christmas cake for her parents, and a Trinidad flag so she won't forget the colours - red, white and black.
Holly said good bye to her relatives who lived outside Port-of Spain, her classmates, her Brownie buddies, her favorite teachers Mrs. Yhap Fung, and Old Tulum the snow-cone man in front of her school. "Holly darlin," he said,"I never been to Canada, but from what I hear you will have to wear five school uniforms at the same time, 'cause it soo cold." Then he started to shiver, knocking his teeth together and hopping from one foot to the other.
Arriving in Canada, Holly is hugged by her mom and dad and feels safe and happy to join them. She dresses in her new winter gear and enjoys exploring this world of snow, breathing little clouds that grow around her mouth in a land where the trees have no leaves.
With Holly's dad away as a Greyhound bus driver and her mother at work, Holly finds herself sad and lonely in Sita's care. Then, Sita takes Holly to city hall where children and adults are ice-skating, including a group of girls dressed in brownie dresses.
"I used to be a Brownie back in Trinidad," Holly told Sita.Eventually, Holly begins to master living in Canada, learning to ice skate. Then, on Christmas Eve morning, her dad comes home with a Christmas tree and boxes of decorations.
"Really? Well, I'll take you to meet the troop near us, after the holidays." Holly shook her head and sat on a bench."I don't care about being a Brownie." She stared at the dull grey sky. Once again, the sun was hiding. "I wish I was back in Trinidad." she whispered. "Don't you like it here, Holly?" "No! I like walking in the snow with you and eating ice-cream cones and walking through the stores in the Eaton centre and all that. But my mom and dad work all the time. And when Dad's home he is sleeping and I'm all alone. Why did they send for me? I thought things would be different."
They sang Christmas carols as they decorated the tree. Holly loved singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Next she changed the carol to "O Little Town of Port-of-Spain." Then she and Dad changed the words to "O Little Town of To-ron-to." Under the flashing Christmas tree, Holly opened her presents. The best was a pair of white leather ice skates. The phone rang. Holly answered it. And there was Tanty Millie. "Merry Christmas, Tanty Millie. I miss you sooooo much!" "Me, too, child, a whole bunch. And Merry Christmas to you. I'll visit you around Easter, after the cold-cold weather gone. In the meantime, be good to your mother and father 'cause they love you."
This story is colourful with the language and music of Trinidad. We get a realistic picture of Holly's immigration to Toronto and her slow and sometimes painful adaptation to the customs and culture of Canada. It is a story well worth thinking about with our children.
Naomi Gerrard has been fascinated with children's literature for years and is a reviewer for the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon award.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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