CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002
Reliable stories about Canadian historical female heroes are not all that easy to find in picture book format, but in the past year three separate titles have been released commemorating Laura Secord's journey to warn the British army of a secret attack by the American contingent. Ironically, Laura Secord is perhaps best known to today's young readers as a name linked with chocolates, sweets and ice cream. Therefore, this trio of titles is a welcome addition for those interested in the War of 1812, strong female heroes, and early Canadian history.
In all three books, much is made of the wildness of the landscape and weather. In all three, Laura is celebrated for her strength of character and purpose throughout her 1813 cross-country trudge to deliver her message. Also, all three books offer historical factual information about the famous trek and character.
Maxine Trottier's Laura: A Childhood Tale of Laura Secord is a fictitious look at Laura's childhood, and it echoes some of the larger themes that are the focus of the other two titles and the folklore surrounding the Laura Secord story. In her historical note, Trottier mentions the folklore of Laura's carrying a milking pail and leading her cow along the road as a cover for the beginning of her journey. Although the cow does not figure in either Lunn's or Crook's versions, it is the cow, Peg, and her wandering away from the farm and safety that provides the foreshadowing for the young Laura's later journey through the wilderness. This Laura also has an encounter with a group of native men at the end of her journey, but these men are accompanied by her father in a search for her and are not equated with danger. Karen Reczuch's use of soft browns, greens and blues provides a complementary palate for Trottier's gentle story. Historical facts are found in the author's note, but this tale is basically a work of fiction. It is an enjoyable read, but fiction nevertheless.
Connie Brummel Crook's Laura Secord's Brave Walk keeps fairly true to the historical record, although no mention is made of her niece Elizabeth's attempt to accompany her on the difficult trek. The author provides endnotes in her historical note to verify the authenticity of her tale. The illustrations by June Lawrason tend to focus on the characters and their facial expressions. They are also rendered in muted blues, greens and browns to reflect the landscape. Only the colours of the clothing worn by Laura and Lt. FitzGibbon provide any major contrast to this landscape, and, by the end of Laura's journey her dress, too, is no longer bright and distinct.
In Laura Secord: A Story of Courage, Janet Lunn's lyrical prose takes the reader with Laura on her journey and beyond the warning given to FitzGibbon. Lunn's epilogue presents further information about the immediate Secord family and the monuments in Ontario commemorating Laura and her courageous journey. This telling, along with the epilogue, places Laura's journey more firmly in the context of Canadian history. The naive folk illustrations, painted in bright reverberating colours by Maxwell Newhouse, are reminiscent of the art style of the early 1800s in North America. The text and illustrations work well to bring Laura' s tale to a slightly older reading audience.
All three titles are:
Gail de Vos, an Edmonton-based storyteller, is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Library & Information Science, the University of Alberta.
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