________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Ghost Voyages IV: Champlain & Cartier.

Cora Taylor.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2008.
117 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55050-374-6.

Subject Headings:
Champlain, Samuel de, 1567-1635-Juvenile fiction.
Cartier, Jacques, 1491-1557-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


There was an old brown [stamp]. Issued in 1908 to celebrate Quebec's tercentenary. A twenty-cent stamp showing Cartier's arrival in 1535 with his three vessels. [Jeremy] checked his stamp catalogue. It was one of the first bilingual stamps issued in Canada.

Three ships. It wouldn't hurt to know their names. He picked up his magnifying glass just to see if he could make them out. Otherwise he'd have to google "Cartier" or go out to the living room and check the Canadian Encyclopedia, and that felt like work.

Grande Ermine, he read, and that was all he had a chance to do. Too late, he realized he'd picked up the wrong magnifying glass. The old magnifying glass of Grandad's automatically put him on board the ship.


Jeremy has returned to Edmonton after visiting his father in Montreal where he met Pam, his father's new wife, for the first time. This visit could have been traumatic and did involve several time-travelling trips to the past compliments of his grandfather's magnifying glass and stamp collection — Jeremy's refuge when things at home become too fraught — but, in fact, the visit ended up going pretty well. However, he comes back to find that his very pragmatic down-to-earth mother has fallen hard for a man whom Jeremy characterizes in his mind at a UCS, a Used Car Salesman. So off Jeremy escapes to the past via his stamps where he again meets up with the two Harveys, namely his grandfather and his grandson, on ships belonging to Cartier and Champlain.

      In spite of Jeremy's spending about a third of the book in the historical past, the focus of Ghost Voyages IV is not really on the history he observes. Rather, it is the changes in Jeremy, himself, that catch and hold the reader's attention. In the dilemma he sees in his mother's infatuation with the UCS, Jeremy first turns to his Aunt Beth for guidance, and then he consults, via email, a friend he met in Montreal. Both are somewhat helpful, but in the end Jeremy finds his own way, maturing quite remarkably in the course of just a few weeks. It is his character development that really fuels one's interest in the story. This is not to say that the ship visits are unimportant and certainly not that they are uninteresting. His being knocked off a gondola into a canal in Venice (not all his trips go to Canada's past) is a fine bit of comedy, and the terrifying storm while he was on a yacht about to turn turtle during a race from Sydney to Hobart off the Australian coast is heart-stoppingly exciting. Champlain's kidnapping of an Indian chieftain and his taking him back to France, an item that doesn't always make it into the history books, also makes compelling reading.

      Jeremy is a good character, and he is developing nicely as the series continues. I only hope that he doesn't get his life so much under control that the magnifying glass and stamp album cease to transport him to the past because I am looking forward to the next installment of his story!


Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg but spends her summers on the shores of the St Lawrence; there were stamps of the tall ships that made their way past her cottage near Kingston...

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