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Canadian Railroad Trilogy
By Gordon Lightfoot
Illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas and McIntyre, 2010. 978-0-88899-953-5
[US Distribution: Publishers Group West]
Medium: pastel
Ages 4 and up

This lavishly illustrated book brings Gordon Lightfoot's heart-stirring song "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" to readers young and old. The song was commissioned by the CBC in 1967 to mark Canada's centennial year and it has been a classic ever since. It eloquently describes the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway – "an iron road runnin' from the sea to the sea" – a great feat of nation building that changed Canada forever for good and for ill, as in the process many people died and were dispossessed of their land.

Highly acclaimed, award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace brings the song to visual life with his sweeping landscapes and evocative portrayals of the people who lived the building of the railroad – from the financiers in the East to First Nations people across the country to the thousands of navvies themselves, many of whom came from as far away as China. The book includes Gordon Lightfoot's music and lyrics, a brief history of the railroad, notes on the illustrations and further reading.

Themes: Nation building, folksongs, First Nations, immigrant labour
Setting: Canada

(For photos of Mr Lightfoot viewing an exhibition of the illustrations, see Exhibitions.)

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.

The Sleeping Porch
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas and McIntyre, 2008. 978-0-88899-826-2
[US Distribution: Publishers Group West]
Ages: 4 - 7

On a hot, steamy summer night, young Brando and his parents move out onto the sleeping porch, hoping they might catch the hint of a cool breeze. They soon fall asleep, but around midnight Brando stirs. And in the flicker of a firefly, the cat from the near-by graveyard lands on his cot and so an amazing adventure begins.

Together, Brando and the Graveyard Cat soar over the city that is melting in the heat and leap into the night sky, as high as the rings of Saturn. A short time later they head north where the arctic seas are full of seals and whales and shimmering icebergs. They scale jagged cliffs and slide down slippery slopes. But when the iceberg they are riding on begins to melt and they both nearly fall into the frigid water, their cries fill the steamy night.

The next morning, when they awaken, the adventure all seems to have been a dream ... or was it?

Ian Wallace's stunning illustrations perfectly complement this lively and wonderfully imaginative tale.

Themes: Adventure, fantasy, imagination, dreams, War of 1812
Setting: New England

The Huron Carol
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas and McIntyre, 2006. 0-88899-711-6
[US Distribution: Publishers Group West]
Ages: 4 and up

The Huron Carol is a beautiful and unusual Christmas song with a rich history. In the early 1600s Father Jean de Brébeuf came to Canada from his native France as a Jesuit missionary. He settled among the Huron, or Ouendat, people in what is now Midland, Ontario. Despite his missionary zeal, Brébeuf was sensitive to the people with whom he lived. He learned their language and he wrote, in Huron, the original version of this famous Christmas carol. He and his fellow priests, called Black Robes, and many of their Huron parishioners were killed in an Iroquois raid in 1649.

But Brébeuf's carol continued to be sung by successive generations of Hurons. Then in 1926, Jesse Edgar Middleton, inspired by Brébeuf, wrote his own version of the carol in English. His are the familiar words we sing today, describing the Huron landscape, flora and fauna in telling the Christmas story.

Ian Wallace brings his masterful ability to paint the landscape and his cultural sensitivity to this unique Christmas song. Multicultural versions of the text, the music and full descriptions of how this carol came down to us today are included.

Themes: Native people, Hurons, Multiculturalism, Christmas, Christmas music, Canadian history.
Setting: Ontario, (Canada)

Mavis and Merna
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas and McIntyre, 2005. 0-88899-647-0
[US Distribution: Publishers Group West]
Medium: Watercolour
Ages: 5 - 9

Merna and Joe Gully own the busiest store in Fortune's Cove. It sells everything a family could ever need – from bicycles and birdbaths to church hats and long johns to hammers and licorice whips. Mavis is a young girl who loves everything about the store and dreams of buying all the wonderful things she sees. When Joe suddenly dies, Merna holds a wake at Gully's and then closes the store indefinitely. Mavis's parents speculate that Merna must have inherited a fortune. So one fall night, Mavis sneaks across town to the Gully house to see if she can spot evidence of these supposed riches. Instead of finding money, she finds a lifelong friendship. This poignant book explores the relationship between Mavis and Merna, kindred spirits from different generations. A touching, gentle story of loss and the healing power of friendship, this is Ian Wallace at his finest.

Themes: Friendship, Growing up
Setting: East coast (Canada)

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.

The Man Who Walked the Earth
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2003. 0-88899-545-8
[U.S. English rights: Publishers' Group West]
Medium: Acrylic
Ages 6 - 9

It's Christmas night. Andre's father has been gone eight months in search of work. Andre, his mother and sister Elise are about to start their dinner when there is a knock at the door. A tall stranger is soon sitting with them at the extra place at the table, which Andre has set each night since his father left. As the stranger revives in the family's hospitality, he surprises everyone with splendid tricks of magic, bringing colour and light into their simple home and into their hearts. The stranger leaves Andre with one last burst of magic, and when his father returns home later that night, the magic is complete. The dazzling light – like a magical presence – infuses many of Ian's brilliant illustrations, from the intimate scenes around the table in the home to the wide open view of a winter night sky.

Themes: Christmas, Magic, Families
Setting: Prairies (Canada), 1930s

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.

The Naked Lady
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2002.
[U.S. English rights: Roaring Brook Press. 0-7613-1596-9 (trade)
0-76130-2660-X (library binding)]
Medium: Water colour (on Arches paper)
Ages 6 - 10

One of Ian's later books is a semi-autobiographical tale of the time early in his life when he was inspired to become an artist. When a new neighbour moves to the farm next door, our young protagonist is surprised to discover a large naked lady dancing on a rock! She is only a sculpture, of course, and in the days that follow, the boy learns that the neighbour is an artist who sculpts everything from people to animals to vegetables. The man teaches the boy how to draw and for the boy, there is no turning back. He vows to become an artist like his neighbour. Ian takes us through the four seasons on the farm and uses a rich variety of colour to depict the two worlds of the farm and the art studio. The buildings provide a sharp contrast to the delicate curves of the sculptures and the landscape. This book is a glorious tribute to that neighbour, Pieter Doef, and an inspiration to anyone who dreams of creating beautiful works of art.

Themes: Art, Sculpture, Growing Up
Setting: Ontario (Canada) - Rural

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.

The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2002. 0-88899-415-X
[U.S. English rights: Roaring Brook Press]
Medium: Pencil crayon on drawing paper
Ages 7 - 11

After moving to Dawson City with his mother, Josh is befriended by Gabe, a boy his own age. Gabe shows him the town and tells him wild stories about the Yukon. Like the story of Trapper Jack and his lost toe, the toe that is kept in the Sourdough Saloon. Josh does not believe him and the boys set off to find out the truth. They investigate first at the Saloon, then by visiting Trapper Jack. The story of the toe develops more than one twist, especially when the three-legged dog gets involved, to hilarious and suspenseful results. But the story of Trapper Jack's toe is not over. In true Yukon spirit, there is still one more surprise for Josh and Gabe. Ian's detailed pencil crayon illustrations depict a cold northern landscape where white predominates. Inside the cabin, the intimate, sparce space is enveloped by the warm yellow light of a burning fire and the rising steam from the old stove – the perfect setting for listening to a good tale.

Themes: Tall Tales, Friendship, The North, Climate, Storytelling
Setting: Dawson City, Yukon Territory (Canada)

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.

Duncan's Way
Written and illustrated by Ian Wallace.
Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2000. ISBN 0-88899-388-9
[U.S. English rights: Dorling Kindersley]
Medium: Water colour (on Arches handmade paper)
Ages 7 - 10

Duncan's father comes from a seven-generation fishing tradition, only now there are no more fish in the sea. He spends his days gazing at the ocean, watching television and baking. Duncan would like to help but he does not know how. When his mother announces they are moving away to find work, Duncan, with a little help from his friend, comes up with a creative solution that allows them to stay. The family now works together to invent a new role for their boat and a whole new way for Duncan's father to be out on the sea. Ian's sweeping water colour illustrations let the reader see, with Duncan or his father's eyes, the rugged scenic views of the deep blue sea and the rocky Eastern shore. The landscape of a Maritime fishing community comes alive before our very eyes and we feel with Duncan's family the sorrow of leaving their homeland.

Themes: Fishing, Ocean, Problem Solving, Depression (Illness), Families, Courage, Maritimes
Setting: Newfoundland (Canada)

Buy Online: Canada / U.S.


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