CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 40. . . .June 17, 2016
When I was in elementary school, Nancy Greene was the darling of the media. Radio and television news broadcasts informed Canadians of her skiing exploits on the international stage. Ephemeral newspaper and magazine articles helped to make her a celebrity, and book publishers sought to capitalize on her fame by publishing timely biographies. All too soon, her skiing career peaked and waned. Gradually she was forgotten, and librarians eagerly discarded the biographies that they considered out of date and of no interest to current readers. Such is the nature of celebrity and the life cycle of the star athlete. However, later generations can rediscover forgotten stars through new works like documentary film, new biographies, and even fictionalized history. Fortunate are those readers today who can rediscover the amazing lives and accomplishments of the Wurtele twins, Rhona and Rhoda, who dominated the nascent North American women’s alpine skiing competitions during most of the 1940s and who represented Canada in the 1948 winter Olympics. Byron Rempel told their stories in a profusely illustrated biography No Limits. Now, enjoy Alain M. Bergeron’s creative biography told in a fictionalized chapter book, The Amazing Twins W.
Bergeron is a prolific French Canadian writer of books for children and young adults. While some of his works have been translated into English and other languages, his work may not be well-known to English Canadians. If this is your first discovery of Bergeron’s story telling skills, you are in for a delight. He uses humour in abundance and creates characters, children and adults alike, who are believable. In this novel, he also capitalizes on spooky themes like haunted houses and church cemeteries and introduces time travel that allows the main protagonist, sixth grader Adam Watson, to see his elderly neighbours in their glorious youth. Bergeron includes non fiction end matter to further expand upon the real life accomplishments of the Wurtele twins who turned 94 in January 2016. Nancy Robinson contributes a brief overview of the women’s sporting accomplishments upon their induction into the Sports Halls of Fame of Quebec and Canada. A 22 page photo essay with commentary by Rhoda Wurtele Eaves and a two-page chronology of major sports milestones in the twins’ lives round out the non fiction content. In keeping with the style preferred by French language publishers, dialogue is indicated by the use of prefixed dashes (as shown in the excerpt) rather than cumbersome quotation marks.
The novel, itself, consists of 16 chapters plus an epilogue, amounting to 96 pages. Pierre Dutil’s seven colour illustrations are whimsical and appropriately matched to the text. The story unfolds as Adam’s teacher assigns his students a year long inter generational project: get to know an elderly person from the community, visit them at least five times throughout the year and write up your discussions. At the end of the school year, the students have to also deliver an oral presentation. Adam’s first choice of a subject proves less than ideal, but fortunately she moves away in the fall, and he has to find a new subject. His choice of a woman that he had seen in the drugstore turns out to be one of the Wurtele sisters. As he visits them in their spooky mansion, he has dizzy episodes that transport him in time and place to view the sisters at various times in their lives, performing amazing feats. The accounts that he shares with his teacher and classmates seems unbelievable until they, too, are convinced that these elderly women have lived interesting lives and continue to live as if life has no limits.
Val Ken Lem is a collections librarian at Toronto’s Ryerson University. He usually reviews biographies and history but was happy that this creative work was offered for review.
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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.