________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2016


Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush.

Carol Shields & Patrick Crowe. Graphic novel adaptation by Willow Dawson. Illustrated by Selena Goulding.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2016.
142 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $22.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77260-003-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77260-004-9 (epub).

Subject Headings:
Moodie, Susanna, 1803-1885-Comic books, strips, etc.
Frontier and pioneer life-Canada-Comic books, strips, etc.
Frontier and pioneer life-Ontario-Comic books, strips, etc.
Women authors, Canadian (English)-19th century-Biography-Comic books, strips, etc.
Graphic novels.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

***½ /4



For as long as I could remember, I had always wanted to be a writer and my heart was full of the dreams of youth.

But suddenly I had set aside my ambitions and found myself hurtling towards some strange destiny.

We had no choice. We were obliged to emigrate.

As a retired army officer on half-pay, Mr. Moodie's means were too small to support a family in England.

We, therefore, resolved to 'try Canada,' as they write on lost letters in the post office.

My copy of Susanna Moodie's Canadian classic Roughing It in the Bush is 543 pages in length. It is a thick, imposing volume that I first encountered—and enjoyed—as an adult in a university Canadian Literature course in the United States. The new graphic novel by Second Story Press, Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush, will help many Canadian readers discover Susanna Moodie and her work well before they reach adulthood. It is a unique collaboration between some of Canada's finest—Carol Shields, Patrick Crowe, Selena Goulding, Willow Dawson, and for the introduction, Margaret Atwood. Shields and Atwood need no introduction as two of the biggest names in Canadian literature. Crowe is a writer and filmmaker. Goulding is an illustrator and comic book artist. Dawson is a graphic novelist and picture book illustrator. It is a talented team, and their abilities shine through in what is an informative, entertaining, and occasionally moving piece of work.

internal art      Carol Shields passed away in 2003. She had long been fascinated by the life and writing of Susanna Moodie. Indeed, she wrote her Master's thesis on Moodie. Until shortly before her death, Shields was working with Crowe on a feature film screen play about Moodie. With Goulding and Dawson's input, that work formed the basis for the new graphic novel.

      Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush is an easy-to-read work that is especially suited to mature middle school students. The written text is concise, but informative. The layout is user-friendly, with the written text clear and uncluttered and of large print size.

      Goulding's colour-filled illustrations carry the story forward and add details to that story. The changing seasons are suitably reflected in Goulding's changing palette of colours, and the passage of time toiling with burdens of sorrows and struggles shows on the depictions of Moodie's face.

      Moodie and her family experience triumphs amid the tragedies, but, generally, periods of success are quickly followed by more failures. The pioneer life is not one for which her affluent upbringing had made her well-suited, but Moodie emerges as a resilient, hardy woman. Of Canada and its inhabitants, she tells her newly-arrived sister on page 40, "It's rough and horrible and the people are vulgar." Yet, by the final pages, the words and illustrations show that Moodie has tempered her opinion and, although perhaps grudgingly, developed some affection for her adopted land.

      Generally speaking, I am not a graphic novel enthusiast. Whilst the pioneer subject matter will not necessarily have a wide appeal to children and adolescents, Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush is certainly one of the best graphic novels I have read. It will serve as a wonderful introduction to Susanna Moodie. The graphic novel has certainly sent me back to the original work to re-read and again experience Moodie's struggles, insights, and triumphs. Likely, it will also inspire young readers who enjoy the graphic novel to then turn to Moodie's original book.

Highly Recommended.

Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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