The Cremation of Sam McGee

( 1 )

Overview

In 1986 Kids Can Press published an edition of Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee" illustrated by painter Ted Harrison, who used his signature broad brushstrokes and unconventional choice of color to bring this gritty narrative poem to life. Evoking both the spare beauty and the mournful solitude of the Yukon landscape, Harrison's paintings proved the perfect match for Service's masterpiece about a doomed prospector adrift in a harsh land. Harrison's Illustrator's Notes on each page enhanced both poem ...
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The Cremation of Sam McGee

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Overview

In 1986 Kids Can Press published an edition of Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee" illustrated by painter Ted Harrison, who used his signature broad brushstrokes and unconventional choice of color to bring this gritty narrative poem to life. Evoking both the spare beauty and the mournful solitude of the Yukon landscape, Harrison's paintings proved the perfect match for Service's masterpiece about a doomed prospector adrift in a harsh land. Harrison's Illustrator's Notes on each page enhanced both poem and illustrations by adding valuable historical background. Upon its original publication, many recognized the book as an innovative approach to illustrating poetry for children. For years The Cremation of Sam McGee has stood out as a publishing landmark, losing none of its appeal both as a read-aloud and as a work of art. Kids Can Press proudly publishes this deluxe hardcover twentieth anniversary edition -- complete with a spot-varnished cover, new cover art and heavy coated stock -- of a book that remains as entrancing as a night sky alive with the vibrant glow of the Northern Lights.

Constantly suffering from the cold, Sam makes his companion on the Arctic trail promise to cremate him when he dies, which the companion does--to his great surprise.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[Gorgeously illustrated ? [A wonderful new edition ... Harrison’s pictures are startling and memorable

[Gorgeously illustrated ? [A wonderful new edition ... Harrison’s pictures are startling and memorable

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for books;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales that could give you second looks,
The Northern Lights have seen their sights
But the wisest they ever did see
Was the day in’06, complete with great pix
They reissued Sam McGee.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for books;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales that could give you second looks,
The Northern Lights have seen their sights
But the wisest they ever did see
Was the day in’06, complete with great pix
They reissued Sam McGee.

Children's Literature
Nicknamed "Canada's Kipling" for his renowned three volumes of poetry about the northland, Robert Service wrote this classic Yukon adventure poem in 1907. The poem's narrator says of the north "there are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold." He says the "Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see was that night. . . [when] I cremated Sam McGee." One day McGee, who was from Tennessee and forever cold in the far north, convinces the narrator to promise to cremate him if he dies. McGee dies that very day. Burdened by his promise, the narrator lashes the corpse to the dog sled and hauls it with him over the Arctic trails. Finally, with food supplies low and the sled dogs tiring, the narrator comes to Lake Lebarge where he finds a derelict boat caught in the ice. He stokes a fire in the boiler and pushes his deceased friend inside. After the fire dies, the narrator returns and what does he see but Sam McGee inside saying to shut the door and not let in the cold and storm. For the first time, McGee says, he's "warm." Although written almost one hundred years ago, the humorous poem seems both ancient and ageless, especially when combined in this edition with the vibrant illustrations by Ted Harrison whose woodblock style makes the north simmer with oranges and yellows. 2004, Kids Can Press, Ages 9 up.
—Valerie O. Patterson
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up A fine example of a 20th-Century regional ballad, one that tells of the profound cold of the Yukon and how it affected the lives of two gold miners. If no . . . Ancient Mariner in philosophic potential or length, nevertheless it is similar in its ability to create moods of danger, death, and mystic liberation. Harrison's paintings are also mood-producing in their expressionistic use of flat, saturated colors that seem trapped by thick lines of contrasting colors to create shapes of people, landscape, and sky. Heavy use of blues and purples allows the occasional bright red of a parka or orange sunrise to emphasize the bitterness of the incessant cold. The atmosphere is dry and crystal clear, so that distances shrink, and the encapsulated shapes of clouds, mountains, and frozen rivers and lakes create a world without movement or end, the eternal frost that Sam could no longer tolerate. An added feature in this version are brief captions printed at the bottom of each text page, opposite the full-page paintings, that explain a little of the picture's content. Service's ballad, written in 1907, and Harrison's paintings are strong evocations of the Gold Rush era in the Yukon. Kenneth Marantz, Art Education Department, Ohio State University, Columbus
Winnipeg Free Press
[Gorgeously illustrated ? [A wonderful new edition ... Harrison’s pictures are startling and memorable
Globe and Mail
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for books;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales that could give you second looks,
The Northern Lights have seen their sights
But the wisest they ever did see
Was the day in’06, complete with great pix
They reissued Sam McGee.
Book World
No poem that I can think of, especially a comic one, was ever rendered so electrifyingly in paint
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554532728
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 404,576
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Service was born in England and earned a worldwide reputation as a poet of the Arctic. He died in Europe in 1958.

Ted Harrison is an internationally acclaimed artist best known for his vibrant interpretations of the Canadian North. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Great Story

    I am now a fan of Service. I love the rhythm and mood of this epic poem.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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