CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007
Originally published in 2003, Hudson's Bay Adventures was aimed at readers in the 10 to 13 year-old age range. It is part of a series of short paperback books featuring Canadian history and biography. Altitude Publishing has published a scaled down version of the original in a junior edition. The original subtitle advertised this slim volume as "The Rollicking Saga of Canada's Fur Traders." The fact that the aforesaid "rollicking saga" has been downgraded to "tales" might give the prospective reader a hint as to what is to come. The general plan of the first edition is followed in the junior edition. The narrative chronicles the launch of the North American Trading empire, the early days of the Hudson Bay Company, its fierce struggles first with the French traders and later with the North West Company. The story ends with the merger of the two companies in 1823.
The flow of the story is interrupted in Chapter 6 to introduce a section detailing the lives of seven remarkable adventurers, including Prince Rupert, Henry Kelsey, Thenadelthur and that most fascinating of characters, Isabel Gunn, the Orkney "lad" who maintained her disguise for a year and a half before giving birth to a child at the North West Trading post in Pembina.
Although the irritating tense-switching which marred the prose of the original is a good deal less evident in this edition, the reduction of all compound to simple sentences gives the text a choppy and amateurish style. Even reading the book from cover to cover in one go (not a likely undertaking for a young reader), it is difficult to keep in mind the time sequence of events since the author goes back and forward with her story, interrupting and repeating herself on several occasions. Sloppy editing continues to be a problem, as a violent storm has once again "wrecked" havoc on a fleet of ships; however the spelling of Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere has at least been corrected. As was noted in a review of the first Hudson's Bay Company Adventures, the map provided at the beginning of the volume fails to show the location of a number of important places referred to in the book. A glossary consisting of 17 words or terms has been added to this edition. The author attempts to define words in the text appearing in bold print which she feels will not be understood by children in the primary grades. The effort to make the text understandable is certainly worthwhile, and it is to be hoped that sort of help will encourage independent reading of this edition.
The book will not have too much appeal to young readers without strong encouragement from a teacher or librarian, plus the sort of motivation a project involves. Small faded black and white reproductions from Provincial and Hudson's Bay archives cannot rival coloured photographs and reproductions of paintings found in such publications as Weigl's “Early Canada” series. Of course, the difference in price will be a factor. “Amazing Stories,” at about 100 pages each, sell for only $9.95 a copy. At present, there are six titles which have been edited and published for a grade 4/5 level. They are: Extreme Canadian Weather, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Roberta Bondar, The Avro Arrow Story and The Mounties. An extremely helpful and well-organized teacher resource guide featuring activities, discussion ideas and evaluation masters is available with the junior editions of the “Amazing Stories” series.
It is not possible to judge the series by one book; different authors will produce books of varying degrees of quality. Information on the series may be had by logging on to the website www.amazingstories.ca. Librarians may justifiably decide to give the junior edition of the “Amazing Stories” a chance, particularly since the Grade 5 social studies curriculum now includes Canadian history up to Confederation. With the above-noted reservations, the book is -
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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