Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Marven of the Great North Woods by Kathryn Lasky and Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Mom bought this for me last year and somehow it got put in a stack of to-reads and never got read. (Well, you see, I have a lot of to-read piles. Like at least five scattered around the house. I asked Justin the other day if his teen aged self would have pictured him living with a book hoarder for a wife. He replied in the negative. But he did promise to love me for better or worse once upon a time, so I guess he is stuck with navigating around precarious to-read piles for the rest of his life. We all have trials and tribulations in this life.)

Anyway, this is a perfectly lovely story. It is based on the life of the author's father, Marven. During the great flu epidemic of 1918, Marven's parents, worried their kids would all be killed by the flu, tried to figure out a way to send at least one kid away from the city of Duluth to the safety of an isolated life. Since girls couldn't travel alone, they sent their son to an old college friend of Marven's father who operated a lumber camp in the far north of Minnesota. 

The lumber camp was full of French Canadians. 
My mum grew up in Quebec (but English), so I have a soft spot for stories about les habitants. 
(Look at me using a french phrase!) 

Marven was quick with numbers, so it was decided he could do the lumbercamp's accounts. 

Here, his mother cuts down an overcoat to fit him. There is a bit of cutting to do. 

His mother makes him latkes to eat on the way and tells him to wait until they are almost cold before eating them. "That way they can warm you twice." While Marven hurtles north on the train, he worries a little about the camp. Most of the lumberjacks would speak french and the only french he knew was Bonjour!, which wouldn't get him too far. 

This is where the train drops him. In the middle of nowhere, by himself in frigid temperatures with five miles of cross country skiing to put in before he gets to the camp.

Somehow, to this modern mother, this doesn't seem like a safer option than sticking in Duluth and taking his chances with the flu. I mean, wolves! Frostbite! Blizzards! Getting lost!

 But then, they wouldn't have been able to read Laura Ingalls Wilder yet.

Despite the odds, Marven made it with no mishap. And learns a new french word "derriere." As in "I'm like to freeze my derriere off." So now he could say "Hello, bottom." in french. 

Look at this food! 

Part of Marven's job was to get the lie-a-beds to breakfast on time. 
(Although, who wouldn't jump out of bed to eat this sort of breakfast?) 

He learns some more french, "Lève-toi!"

Getting a system sorted for the book keeping leaves Marven with time to ski through the woods. He mistakes Jean Louise, an enormous jack, for a grizzly bear and starts to cry, thinking of his family waiting at home for him. With his tears frozen on his cheeks (I am getting cold just writing this) Jean Louise worries he is homesick and they get to talking.

Jean Louise and Marven become great friends. 

I love this picture.  

Before Marven leaves, as the spring thaw sets in, Jean Louise surprises him with his very own ax. 

Jean Louise also goes to the train depot with Marven, carrying him through the slushy parts. Jean Louise is quite a great guy. 

And then a joyous reunion with his family in Duluth. "No one is dead!" 

I am glad to be living in 2016. 

Reasons I love this book
1. Lumberjacks 
2.The frozen north 
3. French Canadians
4. Gorgeous pictures

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