Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reader's Diary #489- Ted Harrison: Children of the Yukon

I've been a fan of Ted Harrison's artwork for a while now. My first introduction to him was his illustrations of Robert W. Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew but only recently have I gotten a few of the books he penned himself: The Blue Raven, A Northern Alphabet and Children of the Yukon.

Again Harrison drew me in with with his bold colours and lines. Even if I didn't enjoy his writing, I'd at least have a book of art I appreciate.

Children of the Yukon is not a story book, but an informational book about the people of the Yukon. It's probably aimed at an older children or even adult adult audience, and is really not more than a primer of Yukon culture. I'd further caution that it's pretty dated with a publish date of 1977.

I remember a National Geographic from the 70s that I read as a boy in the 80s. It had a story on Newfoundland and there was a photo of a boy from near St. John's selling cod tongues. It stuck with me because underneath his picture was a really bad interpretation of Newfoundland dialect: "Cod tongues, sor! The best ye ever et!" I look back at it now and think not of that lousy transcription, but the fact that I was able to relate to a Newfoundland boy from a decade earlier. I, too, sold cod tongues as a boy. A decade later and all of that changed. With the decline in the codstocks and following moratorium on the fishery, the day of boys selling cod tongues for pocket change had passed. What a difference 20 years can make.

It's been 32 years since the Children of the Yukon was published. I'd love to see a follow up to see whether or not things have changed dramatically there as well. Failing that, I'd best just go visit and research it myself. Anyone care to fund my research?


Wanda said...

'Children of the Yukon' looks familiar or maybe it's just the art as I'm certain we've had 'A Northern Alphabet' home from the library. 'A Prairie Alphabet', 'ABC of Canada' and 'Eh? to Zed' are a few of the other "first" books I started my kids out with.

We have a few older NG's from '66 and '67. It's fascinating but bizarre to read about the "space race" as it was actually happening. As for cod tongues (you really should read 'The Divine Ryans'), they're a rarity here as well, as is digging a bucket of clams to earn a few extra dollars. Clam license! Who'd have thought ... you're right, what a difference 20 years can make!

Sorry, no spare change to send your way for research but hey, here's a thought: maybe you and Mr. Harrison can get together on a new 'Children of the Yukon', that would be cool! I understand 'A Northern Alphabet' is due for a re-release, so giving him a shout couldn't hurt, right?

John Mutford said...

Wanda: I have actually given him a "shout" before, when I contacted his studio to see if they were interested in donating a signed "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" for the 1st Canadian Book Challenge (which he did!). I doubt he'll want to work on Grandchildren of the Yukon with me yet though.