The Patchwork House

by Sally Fitz-Gibbon, Dean Griffiths,
32 pages,
ISBN: 1551430886

Post Your Opinion
Children`s Books
by Allison Sutherland

Fitz-Gibbon's The Patchwork House gives the same sense of pleasure as well-written science-fiction or a novel set in the Middle Ages, equally enriched by the sense of alien and unfamiliar mental perspectives. The book traces the occupancy of a West Coast homestead from the original Polish settler, to some pre-diaspora Japanese, to a huge extended family from Finland, and finishes with a whitebread professional couple and offspring. The house, garden, and barn undergo adaptations and renovations to suit the culture of each occupant, and there is a recurring unifying phrase in the text, "This is the place for me," which communicates the common human need to belong and put down roots, set against the unchanging character of the background mountain and coastline.

Picture-books are especially delightful when they ring the changes on a particular setting over time. Fitz-Gibbon and Griffiths have made good use of this convention, and the reader flips back and forth in the book, absorbed by the differences in the outbuildings, for instance, or watching the front yard cherry tree become ancient and gnarled as the generations come and go. An adult greets such elements as the sun-porch added by the latest comers with a delighted rueful grin; it is a sun-porch identical to those on houses renovated by a certain class of Canadian from Pictou, N.S., to North Toronto, to Victoria, B.C.

It would have been good to have the parallels worked even more diligently, though. Why not pick a room in the house and show what it looked like under each regime? As well as watching the gardens and the use of the land, it would have been fun to compare the furnishings and interior decoration.

Full marks for avoiding didacticism. With Fitz-Gibbon's lightness of touch, readers simply participate in the experience of multiculturalism, and can see for themselves what part it plays in our identity.


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us