________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999

cover This Land: A Cross-Country Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers.

Kit Pearson, Selector.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 1998.
320 pp., cloth, $25.00.
ISBN 0-670-87896-0.

Subject Headings:
Children's stories, Canadian (English).
Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4

From the Introduction:


The intention of this anthology is to create a tapestry of Canada, a living map composed of only a small portion of the vast literature we now enjoy. Choosing just twenty-two selections was a very difficult task. I didn't use the texts of illustrated books, except in a few cases where the words seemed able to stand alone; I hope readers will look for the originals of these, however, with their wonderful accompanying pictures...In the case of the novel excerpts, I hope the selections will encourage readers to seek out the books.

...These authors all use setting in many different ways, but all of them give it an important role in the story. Sometimes the characters are so emotionally involved with their place that it affects the plot.

...Our literature for children is still young, but we are slowly beginning to create a fictional map of Canada. In a time of political and cultural identity crisis, perhaps it's this sense of the land we all share that brings us together.

This Land is aptly named as Kit Pearson has selected stories for this anthology that create an imaginative landscape of Canada's fiction for young people. As stated in her introduction, the stories Kit has included all have a strong sense of place, and she has emphasized this by organizing the book by province from BC to NF, with a section for the North.

      Each province has from one to five selections, reflecting its population and the range of authors who have written about it. There is a nice mix of contemporary and older stories ranging from 1925 (L. M. Montgomery) to 1996 (Janet McNaughton), and a range of cultural backgrounds. Care was also taken to balance protagonist genders and literary genres.

      The multicultural makeup of BC is evident from the inclusion of native and Chinese legends and stories. The four selections from the prairie provinces each deal with a different season. Readers experience the harsh winter through the eyes of young Sam in Ticket to Curlew; fickle spring in the amusing anecdote selected from Owls in the Family; summer at the lake in the serious Who is Frances Rain?; and glorious fall as Jasmin trades her burdensome responsibilities for freedom. Central Canada is represented by immigrant stories and cultural clashes, as well as French-Canadian village life. From To Dance at the Palais Royale, we witness the aftermath of the dance, when the irreparable chasm between classes is fully realized by the two girls who had tried to bridge it, but whose dreams are ruined like the Japanese lanterns in the rain. Mary in Shadow in Hawthorn Bay reacts strongly to the foreboding trees as she searches for her Scottish relatives. As we move east and north, landscape continues to influence the characters' decisions. Dreams are dashed in Nova Scotia and Christmas trees used for baseball bats in barren Repulse Bay. Both the Beothuk and Norse lifestyles come alive in Joan Clark's imaginative tale of Thrand, a captured young Greenlander who struggles to adapt to his new environment and to the harsh ways of his captors in The Dream Carvers.

      I enjoyed rediscovering these pieces and was amazed how well the novel excerpts stood on their own as short stories. For instance, the selection from Kevin Major's Hold Fast captures the essence of the novel and is both sufficient and open-ended enough to be appreciated by itself, while begging the reader to continue reading the novel. Tim Wynne-Jones states in his short story, "Gloria," that "some days taste so good they are like promises," and it is true of this collection, too. The sweet aftertaste of these stories lingers in the mind and promises renewed pleasures to those who seek out the full-length novels.

Highly recommended.

Alison Mews is the Coordinator Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF.

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ISSN 1201-9364