________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 14 . . . . March 12, 1999

cover The Hangashore.

Geoff Butler.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 1998.
32 pp., cloth, $17.99.
ISBN 0-88776-444-4.

Subject Headings:
Fishing villages-Newfoundland and Labrador-Juvenile fiction.
World War, 1939-1945-Newfoundland and Labrador-Juvenile fiction.
Downs syndrome-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 to adult.
Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4

A "hangashore" is defined in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English as "an unlucky person deserving pity". On the dedication page of The Hangashore author Geoff Butler tells us that it is a disparaging term Newfoundlanders use to refer to a worthless fellow who is too lazy to fish. More broadly, the word may be used to refer to someone who lacks the courage or heart to get on with life. Butler has written a touching story set in Newfoundland at the end of the Second World War. When Magistrate Mercer arrives from England to take up his post in a small fishing outport, he expects a high level of deference and respect from the local people. Alas, his pompous ways and arrogant nature soon turn the community against him. Magistrate Mercer is particularly outraged by the minister's son, John, who although challenged intellectually, sees right through the magistrate's pretensions. At church, noticing that the magistrate refuses to give up his front pew for returning soldiers, John moves to sit beside him, telling him in a voice that all can hear "...it'll take all the religion that's in me to sit down by a hangashore." Furious at the slight, Magistrate Mercer threatens to have John sent to an institution in St. John's. Choosing to run away rather than be sent to an institution, John finds himself in the right place to rescue the magistrate who has put himself in mortal danger by hooking a whale on his fishing line. This dramatic brush with death causes Magistrate Mercer to re-examine his values and to see that, despite his official title, his actions have been those of a true hangashore.

      picture Geoff Butler is a well-known and respected artist whose first Newfoundland story, The Killick, is a winner of the Ruth Schwarz Children's Book Award. Butler's skillful use of dialogue, liberally sprinkled with Newfoundland vocabulary and characteristics of speech, gives his story authenticity. His beautifully detailed paintings depict the tiny outport and its inhabitants in a simple, colourful and moving way. Themes of self-respect and acceptance found in The Hangashore will be readily identifiable to readers with a certain amount of sophistication, making the book a welcome addition to the growing number of picture books featuring mentally or physically challenged protagonists. As well, children studying the different regions of Canada will enjoy discovering the geographic characteristics of Newfoundland as they appear in Geoff Butler's illustrations. The Hangashore is a picture book for the upper elementary grades. Making sense of conversation written in a Newfoundland dialect will be difficult for younger readers; however, if the book is read aloud by someone who knows the dialect and can bring out the humour of the characters and situations, The Hangashore should prove a treat for young listeners.


Valerie Nielsen is a recently retired Winnipeg teacher-librarian who co-chairs the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award Committee.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364