CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 18. . . . January 12, 2017
When a boy finds an elk stealing his clothes during a camping trip, he discovers that she is on a mission to find her missing uncle. The boy and his mother have just moved to Alberta and are touring the province over the summer to learn about their new home. Because the boy is worried about starting a new school, helping an elk search for her missing family member is a welcome distraction. Through rhyming text, the reader accompanies the boy, his mother, and an elk named Rusty (disguised as a human) as they visit various Alberta towns, cities, and landmarks.
The story is a little thin, although very busy, with every stanza or two highlighting a different destination or experience. While there is plenty of fun to be had, such as taking the Skytram in Jasper Park and checking out the hoodoos in the Badlands, no progress is made in the search for Rusty’s uncle. Everyone they question has no information to contribute, and the mystery is only solved when the boy’s mom reads about the Elk Island National Park in her guidebook. The rhythm of the text can be a bit jarring at times, a risk that is always run when authors choose to write their book in rhyme. Even more distracting is the highlighting of seeming random words in coloured ink. For example, a few of the place names in text are coloured, but many others are not.
The illustrations are well matched to the story. They are full bleed which places the reader right in the middle of the action. The pictures are colourful but use a muted palette, with a good level of detail. For the most part, the illustrations directly reflect the text, but there are times when additional elements are added to the story, an example being when the boy and Rusty have tea at what looks like the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge.
Children’s books that tour a city or province are not new and are often of limited general interest. Fortunately, I Met an Elk in Edson Once holds more appeal than many of its compatriots. While the text is not memorable, many children will enjoy the story based solely on its silly premise, and those who are familiar with Alberta’s treasures will relish relating their real life experiences to those of the book’s characters.
Sadie Tucker is a children’s librarian in Vancouver, BC.