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. Volume VIII Number 3 . . . . October 5, 2001
In the daytime they talked of many things. James told about his parents and how they came from Scotland to make their home. Louis spoke of his people, the Metis, and how they were from two worlds, Native and French. His family had been here for so very long. And James helped make the gallette. Although he would only call it bannock. Back and forth they went from one name to the other. "The old and the new, that is what we are," Louis said.Young James falls from his parents covered wagon as they make their way through a snowstorm on the Canadian prairies. He is rescued by a man on horseback who gives him shelter and food for several days until the storm passes. During this time, the stranger, Louis, and James tell each other stories and help each other make the flatbread both of them label differently. When the storm is over, Louis returns James to the general area of his parents but not directly to them. He tells James that the people may not welcome him. Later, when James hears about the capture of the dangerous Louis Riel, he dismisses the idea that it might be his Louis for the man who rescued him was a good man and not a criminal. The story ends with James toying with the difference between the two names for the same bread and how friendship negates these types of differences. The book itself ends with a recipe for the bread. An historical note about Louis Riel, who indeed was the mysterious stranger of the tale, precedes it.
John Mantha's illustrations are filled with cold blues and warm browns. They realistically show the cabin and prairie winter landscape. The characters, other than James and Louis, are rendered in a naive-type of illustrative style, slightly wooden but charming nonetheless.
Although Storm at Batoche is a fictional tale about a historical character, it does present the idea of perception very well.
Gail de Vos teaches Canadian children's literature and storytelling at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She is a resident storyteller at Fort Edmonton Park, bringing history alive through stories, and the author of five books on storytelling and folklore.
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