Barbara Greenwood and Heather Collins' A Pioneer Thanksgiving
is a sequel and companion piece to their 1994 book, A Pioneer Story: The Daily Life of a Canadian Family in 1840,
winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, and an Information Book Award. The original book has proven to be a valuable resource for teachers, parents, and children learning about pioneer life. Although narrower in scope and shorter, the latest volume will be welcomed for its wealth of information about Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations.
The juxtaposition of fact and fiction was a winning combination in A Pioneer Story, and this book follows the same layout and format. A fictional Thanksgiving story, activities related to the story, and factual information are interwoven and carefully differentiated by colour and font. A detailed table of contents and index will help young readers to find information readily. Teachers and parents can use this book to show children how to "read" a text that contains both fact and fiction, and so as a stepping stone to more formal textbooks children encounter later in their schooling.
The story follows the large Robertson family as they prepare a Thanksgiving dinner in the fall of 1841. Instructions for activities related to the story are provided at the end of each chapter. For example, a recipe for cranberry sauce follows the part of the story where the children have an adventure in the cranberry marsh. The activities are clearly laid out and instructions are easily followed, although adult help is required in certain, appropriate places. For her part, Heather Collins has wisely illustrated these pastimes using modern children, many of whom are visible minorities in contrast to the pioneer children in the story.
The Ojibwa and Iroquois people have a profound influence on the lives of the Robertsons. The Native people show them how to make food from the trees in times of hardship, and how to make and play an Iroquois game used in their Green Corn Festival. A young Native boy, Nekeek, appears as a friend of Willy Robertson, and explanations about Native traditions, such as ceremonies of giving thanks, are included.
Books about Canadian Thanksgiving are scarce, and this one will be eagerly received by adults and children alike.
Julie Glazier is an English Consultant with the Toronto District School Board and a voracious reader.