October 3, 2016

canadian wonder tales

 So a programming note - it's OCTOBER if you haven't noticed and usually that's all-Halloween-all-the-time for me; October blogging is usually kind of like my version of the Superbowl - my absolute favorite time of year, ever so closely followed by Christmas. And I promise that I have several very fun and cool Halloween books to share, as standalone posts and as featured cool books on my Friday posts, but I do have a couple of exceptions this month - and this book is one of them.

If you follow me on Instagram (and you SHOULD because even when I can't make it here with a proper blog post, I'm pretty regular about caring & sharing on Instagram!), you might have seen me share a few pages from a most treasured book, 'Canadian Wonder Tales' by Cyrus MacMillan. My pal Michelle from Avery and Augustine popped me a note, asking to see a glimpse of the cover, because I had only posted a picture from inside the book. And I was like well.....my copy is about 30 years old and the cover is looooooooong gone who knows where, and the front is quite plain. How plain? Well look up above. That there is a PLAIN BROWN BOOK.

So what makes me say that this plain looking book is seriously one my most treasured and favorite books of all time? Because it is. If the house were on fire, it would be this book that I'd be reaching for.

I think I wrote on Insta that the stories inside this book "make my soul quiver." And I'm not being dramatic or hysterical, my friends - the haunting and lyrical stories give me a feeling that I've never really experienced with any other children's book. Certain books have the ability to utterly transport you to another time and place, and as a little girl growing up in Hawaii - these tales from the East Coast of Canada that detail the myths and legends of the various Native American tribes in that area just seemed like a place so far removed from anything I knew, it might as well have come from outer space.

The book is divided into two parts - Canadian Wonder Tales and Canadian Fairy Tales. I can't really tell the difference between the two. Apparently Professor MacMillan traveled all around to different areas of Canada and collected the tales from oral sources. There are stories that come from French-Canadian settlers, some tales that clearly have a European influence (with fairy tale traditions like witches, wands, ogres and giants), and tales that are particular to certain Native American tribes from the area.

I want you to know that I read, and re-read this book so constantly in the 4th grade that many of my pages are crumpled and smeared with chocolate - always my favorite book reading accompaniment. This book came with me on trips. My father read to me from this book. I read it and read it and read it some more.

Julia and I were between books recently, waiting for another book on order to arrive - and together, we've read about half of this and right away she got it too - the 'feel' that comes from these stories. I worried that she wouldn't love it as much as I did, since she's not as fairy tale obsessed as I was. But she ADORED these stories and would beg for more when it was time to stop for the night.

 I have to chat about the art for a moment, which was created by Elizabeth Cleaver. I feel so strongly that it's the art which is so crucial in imbuing these stories with the mystical feel that I keep talking about - her black and white, shadowy renderings truly give you a sense of foggy, unknown places that are on the other side of the rainbow.

These are not stories to read to your four your old - I place them firmly in the middle of the elementary ages - best for ages 7-10. In the preface, there's a quote from that reads: "Those who knew these books as children still feel a nostalgic reverence for them." I'm telling you, once you read these, you'll understand what I'm freaking out about.

I can't stress ENOUGH how special, unique and memorable these stories are - trickster tales, fairy tales, scary tales, funny tales, sad tales. Stories like 'How Summer Came to Canada', 'The Sad Tale of Woodpecker and Bluejay', 'The Bad Indian's Ashes', 'Star-Boy and the Sun Dance', 'The Tobacco Fairy from the Blue Hills', 'The Boy Who was Saved by Thoughts', and 'The Passing of Glooskap', just to name a very few.

Amazon has some copies but I have no idea what they are like, so I've also linked to Abe Books, which appears to have copies that have the illustrations I've described - not sure if the books are soft or hard cover - wait, they appear to be hardback yay! But seriously - in whatever form you can get your hands on it - GET YOUR HANDS ON IT.

A magical treasure. On my short list of most loved books.


  1. I am super intrigued! Never ever heard of this. I love that you are always inspiring me to read more fairy tales and fairy-tale-type-stuff to my kids. Thank you!

    1. you are SO welcome! I think hardly anyone knows about it, which is why I feel so compelled to let everyone know! They don't make books like this anymore.....

  2. This is super-cool! I do wish it was at my library. You know me and fairy tales...

    1. If you get a chance, just go for it! You would love it in your permanent collection and Abe Books is selling it for under $10 dollars from some vendors, which is soooooo cool - i think i should get another copy as backup or for gifts because mine -- the binding is starting to split, gasp!