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Catherine Anthony Clark
Illustrated by Greta Guzek
Madeira Park (B.C.), Harbour Publishing, 1994. 200pp, paper, $14.95
ISBN 1-55017-085-6. CIP

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11

Reviewed by Alison Mews

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

This classic Canadian children's fantasy, first published in 1950, has been reissued in paperback by Harbour Publishing. The foreword, excerpted from The New Republic of Childhood* by Sheila Egoff and Judith Saltman, provides the historical and critical context of the novel in Canadian children's literature. Egoff and Saltman explain that Catherine Anthony Clark was our first major fantasist and that, with her intuitive use of the B.C. landscape and native lore, she was uniquely Canadian. For these reasons, this reissue is especially welcome.

The story is a simple quest narrative in which Lucy finds a golden pine cone in the woods. When she and her brother Bren attempt to return it to its rightful owner, Tekontha, they cross the boundary between the real and the magical. Although they meet both friendly and threatening spirit-folk, such as the Squareheads, the Ice Witch and the giant Nasookin, it is a gentle tale without a strong presence of evil. The children use intelligence and common sense to easily overcome all obstacles, solving numerous problems of the spirit world as they journey through familiar landscape to Tekontha's valley, and they return to their own world no worse for wear and with no passage of time.

As a fantasy, the story is timeless and should appeal to today's children, but it is somewhat dated in its treatment of male/ female roles. While Lucy is brave and strong-willed, she is often distressed and fearful and is considered in need of protection by her older brother. For instance, Bren wants her to stay out of harm's way while he attacks the Lake Snake, but after she rushes in to help, brags that "she did very well for a girl." This is a minor point, however, and should not detract from the enjoyment of the story; indeed, the fact that the ruler of all the lands is a Mother Earth-style female, the native spirit Tekontha, helps to offset the jarring note by today's standards.

West coast artist Greta Guzek has provided an extremely attractive cover illustration, which should entice new readers to the classic tale. For each of the nineteen chapters, Guzek has also done full-page black-and-white sketches, which are more stylized and less detailed than Clare Bice's illustrations for the original edition.

I believe this is an essential and affordable purchase for collections of Canadian children's literature.


Alison Mews is Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland

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