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Capturing the Romance of Building a Dugout Canoe -National Post, November 11, 2000

Canadian children's books cover the country's rich cultural and geographical map with variety and flair. It is rare to see the sort of generic pall that often afflicts U.S. children's literature. A book like Jason's New Dugout Canoe (Harbour, 32 pp.) could have been a politically correct cliche but instead it is a story of loss and renewal. Writer Joe Barber-Starkey tells Jason's adventure so every reader will feel the loss of his canoe, and a canoe is so much more exotic and grown-up, so much more intimate than even the most precious bike. . . [-- with] the vitality of the stylized pictures in easy conjunction with the words.

Because Jason's Uncle Silas is a traditional craftsman, Joe Barber-Starkey can logically introduce the history of West Coast culture. To contrast historic scenes from the present, Montpellier adds a stylized border of images, presumably carved and embroidered in the artistically outstanding and sophisticated West Coast culture so long ago. With the text describing the variety of historic canoes, Montpellier draws a tempestuous and heart-clutching scene of a six-man canoe balanced on huge waves, the men hunting a whale that is also far bigger than their frail-looking craft. All that background just adds to the romance of building a real dugout canoe. It allows Barber-Starkey to include all those fascinating details like how to spread the canoe into shape, first filling it with water which is then heated with rocks from a fire - just like natives here boiled maple syrup. Montpellier's final illustrations show Jason paddling away in his canoe, complete with carved decorations and not shaped like anything most of us have seen or paddled - scenes of total bliss.

And the water rippled with waves and crabs and otters awaiting his arrival make it all seem just that much more heavenly.

-Elizabeth Maccallum, National Post

www.classroomresources.com
This delightful story of a Nu-chah-nulth boy explores First Nation traditional and values through the making of a canoe. Jason's first canoe is crushed during a storm, and he must replace it. Through Uncle Silas, he learns the traditional methods of canoe building plus stories and legends about his heritage. In an entertaining way, Jason's New Dugout Canoe also teaches the important lessons of patience, respect and reverence for nature and all it creatures.

Stunning full-colour illustrations capture both closeness to nature and a sense of continuity of Native tradition.
www.classroomresources.com