Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reader's Diary #1800- Alison McCreesh: Norths

Having been a huge fan of Alison McCreesh's comic memoir Ramshackle about her move to Yellowknife from the south, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Norths: Two Suitcases and a Stroller Around the Circumpolar World. In addition to being in awe of her illustrations, I've also been a long time traveler, complete with the kids in tow, and have been fascinated with the circumpolar world since I taught grade 7 social studies years back (in the Northwest Territories, the circumpolar world is the entire theme for the grade 7 socials curriculum— I wish this book had existed back then as it would have made a far more interesting textbook!). 

Rather than a comic this time around, McCreesh took a slightly different approach. For each day she was away (180 days in total), she sent back an illustrated postcard to family, friends, and fans. On the back of the cards she wrote a small description as well as a quick diary-esque message. 

Curiously, although working in the book's favour in terms of flow, I didn't notice much difference from one's recipient's postcard to the next. I imagine in "real-life" her voice would change somewhat from family to friends and different levels of relationships, but as this project was planned in advance, I suspect she knew that keeping things consistent would work better for an overall reader.

This is not to say there isn't a change in emotion and indeed I found it most interesting to get occasional insight into the toll such an extended trip was taking on her and her family, both physically (I believe they got sick in every country) and emotionally (highs and lows). 

Important to the theme of course, I also learned much about the circumpolar world, despite McCreesh's acknowledgement at one point that as a visitor her observations were only superficial at best. (I'd argue that one of her skills as the brilliant artist she is is to make astute observations quicker than average schlubs like me, but I get what she's saying.) I learned much about languages, architecture, currency, geography, climate, food, and more. And it was all aided with delightful line drawings enhanced with gray scale watercolours. 

She was not able to make it to Alaska this time around but once she's rested up, I'm hoping for a sequel. Maybe she she could also take in Yukon and Nunavut as well. If she does, I'm hoping to get a postcard for myself this time around!


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