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McDonald, Donna.

Saint John, New Brunswick Museum and Dundurn Press, c1985. 82pp, cloth. $19.95, ISBN 1-55002-005-6. Distributed by Dundurn Press. CIP

Grade 10 and up
Reviewed by Joan M. Payzant

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

Illustrated News is a Mary Poppins of a book, and no, I do not mean it is a book about nannies. I mean it is practically perfect in every way; a shining jewel of a book. It was written by Canadian Donna McDonald, now living in London, England, who has been associated previously with the CBC and the government of New Brunswick in other heritage projects. McDonald's latest book is essentially the story of three years in the life of Juliana Horatia Ewing (well-known Victoria writer of children's stories), but as well, she smoothly incorporates earlier and later years of Ewing's life. Thus we do not read of those special three years that she spent in Canada without a knowledge of her background, nor are we left in limbo with regard to her future.

Juliana Horatia Ewing's husband, Captain Alexander Ewing, was posted to Fredericton, New Brunswick, with the commissariat department of the British army in 1867. Immediately she set foot on Canadian soil, in Halifax, Ewing began recording her impressions in illustrated letters to her family and friends. Eight colour plates and twenty-three black-and-white drawings, which were in the local history section of the Wake field District Library in England, are included in the book. Along with Ewing's letters, they give fascinating impressions of her experiences in Canada. The author's research and reading in England has enlarged Juliana Ewing's own account of life in Fredericton, and explained details of her pictures that might not be immediately obvious to the reader.

At the time she produced them, Ewing's letters and drawings served a dual purpose; they alleyed her family's fears about the faraway land she was temporarily making her home, and they kept her busy so that she would not be so homesick. Today, McDonald points out, "instead of illustrating domestic news across the Atlantic, these watercolours and pencil sketches illustrate the news across a century."

Illustrated News is beautifully bound, printed, and illustrated. On the bright blue end papers are maps of New Brunswick and its capital city, Fredericton. On the sturdy, glossy dust jacket are two colour reproductions of Juliana Ewing's paintings. This is a book to read and treasure.

Joan M. Payzant, Dartmouth, N.S.
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