Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This French-Canadian folktale begins in the Ontario woods on Christmas Eve. Six French fur traders, cold, hungry, and far from home, have nothing to celebrate. They are startled by the arrival of a stranger dressed from long ago. When he asks where they would like to be, they answer back home for a family Christmas in Montreal. The stranger asks for nothing, but warns that they must not speak a word on the way. Old Armand is suspicious, but the traders follow instructions. Magically their canoe rises in the air as they paddle to Montreal. Unfortunately, once there, Old Armand loses his temper and shouts; the stranger appears to send them back. But Armand sticks the canoe to the church spire, where it dumps the traders as it spins. The stranger is vanquished and all ends well. The San Soucis use "traditional and digital media" to produce naturalistic double pages depicting the season's darkness along with mysterious illumination. The characters are statuesque amid the changing scenery of the dramatic situation. There is a glossary of included French terms along with notes on the background of the story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1�4—A group of fur traders spends a miserable Christmas in the remote Canadian woods. Certain that "Père Nöel does not come here," the voyageurs are shocked when a mysterious stranger appears and offers to send them back to Montreal if they promise not to speak until they reach their own homes. They agree and pack their canoe, which rises into the air, whizzing them by the landmarks of their long journey. They communicate via sign language until they arrive in Montreal, where one trader cannot contain a verbal protest when he sees his daughter walking with a military man. Just before the stranger sends them back, the fur traders crash the canoe and fall safely to the ground, home at last. This French-Canadian folktale is brought to luminous life by the San Soucis. The atmospheric artwork, done in traditional and digital media, conveys the mystery and wonder of the snowy journey. Kimmel's storytelling is rich and straightforward. A nice addition to folklore and Christmas collections.—Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
Kimmel, an expert in folktales and their origins, retells a mysterious story about six French-Canadian fur traders who use a magical flying canoe to get home to Montreal for Christmas.
The voyageurs are stuck in a remote location in Ontario on Christmas Eve, missing their families. A stranger in the clothing of the early explorers suddenly appears, offering them transport home if they will remain silent for the entire trip. Their canoe magically floats above the clouds as the men paddle silently, communicating with Indian sign language. One of the men speaks up on arriving home, causing the reappearance of the stranger, who is just about to send them back when the canoe gets stuck on the spire of the cathedral, allowing the men to escape. Evocative illustrations from Daniel San Souci, in collaboration with his son Justin, offer spooky views of the moonlit canoe sailing over lakes, forests and a fort in northern Michigan. Though the story has some humorous moments, the fluidity of the signed communication between the men as they paddle through the dark skies strains credulity (they are holding paddles, after all), and the motivation of the stranger offering the magical transportation is unclear.
But folktales are sometimes allowed to be a little puzzling, and the talents of Kimmel and the San Soucis keep this enigmatic and unusual Christmas story aloft. (author's note, glossary)(Picture book/folktale. 5-9)