By: Stan Rogers and Matt James
Published by: Groundwood Books
Published on: September 10, 2013
Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.
I picked this book as one of my Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2013 because I knew it was an adaptation of a classic Canadian folk song that I love. Besides, look at that gorgeous cover! I want that on my living room wall.
But I didn't realize how much more there is in this book.
The Stan Rogers song, Northwest Passage, is just a jumping off book for a fascinating mystery that is still unsolved today; the mystery of the Franklin Expedition of the 1840s. So many issues that affect Canada past and present, from technology and geography, to relations with the First Nations peoples and the effects of climate change are included in this engaging second layer of story telling. The fact that the Erebus and well-named Terror have still not been found adds extra interest for young people.
The book has two narratives that work together; the song lyrics and the story of the Franklin Expedition. It also has an amazing amount of extra information in the back of the book, including the music for Northwest Passage and a Gallery of Explorers. This would be a fantastic addition to every Canadian elementary school for social studies.
Matt James' amazing illustrations deserve special mention. He seemlessly blends the late 20th century with the 19th. There is potential for a book that mainly takes place in the frozen waters of the Arctic to be a bit boring but none of the illustrations feel repetitive at all. James can do amazing things with just a few shades. The textures of the India ink and acrylic paintings make you feel like you are holding a piece of living art in your hands - while your legs tap the beat of the classic song.