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Retold and illustrated by Tamara Thiebaux
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1992.28pp, cloth, $15.95
ISBN 1-88902-515-0. CIP

Grades 2 to 6/Ages 7 to 11

Reviewed by Theo Hersh.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

The pastoral world of the habitant farmer is revisited in Tamara Thiebaux's gentle rendering of "The most exciting time of the year... la saison des fetes." The text for When Heaven Smiled on Our World was excellently adapted for young readers from a descriptive essay of the same title by Corinne Rocheleau Rouleau which appeared in Christmas in Canada (Dent, 1972), edited by Mary Barber and Flora McPherson.

Written in the first person, the description of Christmas preparations and celebration is unpretentious. Though set at the turn of the century, the book is reminiscent of Roch Carrier's Happy New 'Year's Day (January 1, 1941). The two memoirs are complementary yet distinct: similarities in the descriptions are as noteworthy as are the differences in their narrator's voices.

Great care has been taken in the design. The left-hand pages, softly washed in yellow to look like the walls of a rustic home, surround the boxed text. Initial letters of each paragraph are decorated in folk motifs. Page numbers are surrounded by bright borders. On the right-hand page, Thiebaux's folk paintings perfectly match the tone of the text. Each illustration fills in the words' empty spaces and can stand as a miniature story of rural Quebec life. Details are not missed: rolled-up rugs for curling hair, children feeding the dog under the dinner table, herbs drying suspended from the kitchen's beamed ceiling, and cracked plaster walls.

Virginia Davis's afterword suggests ways of using the book to enrich social studies activities. can indeed be incorporated into classroom studies or simply be appreciated for its loving harkening to earlier, simpler times.

Theo Hersh is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.
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