CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 22. . . .February 12, 2016
Mayann’s Train Ride is an autobiographical picture book story that is based on an incident in the life of an African-Canadian who grew up to become, among other things, the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia.
Readers are presented with a comforting story about a family holiday which has a feeling appropriate to its 1950’s setting. School is out for the summer, and Mayann and her sister are excited about the upcoming trip by train from Cape Breton to visit relatives in New York City. As their father is the local Anglican priest, they are well-known in their community. The porter greets their arrival at the station:
The girls enjoy the passing scenery and the adventure of climbing into a sleeping car berth and then visiting friends in Montreal before embarking on the second leg of the journey. Mayann records events and tucks her notebook into the treasured green purse.
At last the family arrives at its destination:
Next day there is a wonderful visit to the Bronx Zoo that ends unhappily when Mayann realizes that she has left her purse on the subway! Phone calls to inquire if the purse has been found prove fruitless, and even a trip to see the Empire State Building cannot lifts Mayann’s mood.
Readers might expect the purse to be miraculously restored, but, in fact, it is gone forever. Instead, it is clear that news of the little girl’s loss has gotten around amongst the Harlem church congregation where the family goes on the Sunday after the trip to the zoo. A kind adult gives Mayann’s sister a bracelet and Mayann a new purse, one that containis a crisp five-dollar bill inside.
On the strength of this act of generosity, Mayann is able to enjoy the rest of an action-filled family holiday.
The final paragraph of the story is satisfying if a bit saccharine:
Tamara Thiebaux Heikalo has painted a gentle and naturalistic vision of this episode in Mayann’s young life. Watercolour backdrops are detailed, and each human figure is accentuated with a strong black outline. The family, the Harlem churchgoers, the Cape Breton taxi driver and the railway porters are all black, although there are a few white faces in the schoolyard at the start and on the train as well. There is no whiff of the racial discrimination or segregation which surely was some part of Mayann’s world.
An interesting snapshot of an unfamiliar time and place, Mayann’s Train Ride is recommended for primary school and public library collections.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.