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Naomi Wakan
Illustrated by Tatjana Volz
Toronto, Annick Press, 1994. 32pp, paper,
ISBN 1-55037-353-6 (paper) $4.95,
ISBN 1-55037-354-4 (library binding) $14.95.
Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Subject Headings:
Farm life-Fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8

Reviewed by Linda Holeman

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

This story begins with the legendary "Once upon a time ..." but the topic is far from legend. Trouble over boundaries between countries, resulting in trouble between the people caught on different sides of the boundaries, is an ageless dilemma.

One Day a Stranger Came involves three families whose farms are connected by a common brook and duck pond. But the three farms are all in different countries.

The families are best of friends and share everything from planting to harvesting and feasting, helping in good times and when trouble strikes. But then a stranger comes--a stern government official who passes on a new law: there is to be no more sharing among the families. The boundaries must be clearly marked, in order to stop the fighting between the countries.

"What fighting?" the families ask. When they try to explain that they are happy with their situation--that it works well for all of them--the stranger announces, "That idea is of no consequence to the authorities ... These are the rules and you had better follow them."

As the story continues, we see how the rules laid out by the stranger begin to erode the deep friendship of the families. But with the children's intervention, the friends devise ways to deal with the unwanted changes and, ultimately, to ensure that fences never come between their feelings for each other.

The universal issue of these problems can certainly be scaled down to a personal level for children as parents and teachers use this book to discuss unwanted boundaries and discrimination that may exist in their own neighbourhoods and communities.

Some of the vocabulary might be a little tough for young readers, and there are some incidents of "telling, not showing." Both minor obstacles could have been eliminated by tighter editing.

Tatjana Krizmanic Volz's illustrations are simple and bright and have the feel of caricatures. Rendered in pastels with smudgy chalky outlines, they are lively and appealing to children.

On the whole, this is a well-presented and timely topic for the Primary grades.

Linda Holeman, a former elementary teacher, now writes full time in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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