Volume 21 Number 1
Christmas during the late 1940s in southern Alberta is poignantly depicted in Rudy Wiebe's first children's book Nine-year-old Eric, his sister Anni, fourteen, and their family have moved from up north to live in a small prairie town where their father has been able to find work. Christmas normally brings hopes and expectations, but this year a chinook wind is blowing, changing everything abruptly from winter to spring, and magically making some small Christmas miracles come true.
This is not the average saccharine children's Christmas story. It is earthy and realistic: the reader can almost be part of the story and will experience the joy that Eric gets from letting the wind blow him along on his bike, feel the bite of the cold, muddy water that he falls into, and understand Anni's pride at not wanting to accept a hand-out. Anyone familiar with Wiebe's work for adults will especially appreciate his powerful use of language to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of a small town at Christmas, played out against a landscape of poverty, generosity, ethnic customs and fierce independence.
David More's illustrations are the perfect complement to the story. They are rich and colourful and as evocative as the story they accompany. No pale snowy images here; rather, the brilliant reds, blues, oranges and yellows reminiscent of a prairie sunset abound. Everywhere, the wind is blowing the children's hair and clothing, and the pure joy of living is reflected in their faces.
Young readers, however, will have some difficulties with this book, as the sentence construction and vocabulary are well beyond most children aged four to eight. For best results, it should be shared together by reading it aloud time and again so that the wonderful richness of the language and story can seep in.
Ila D. Scott is Assistant Reference/Collections Librarian at the Herbert T. Coutts Library, University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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