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Author: Rogers, Stan & James, Matt
Illustrator: James, Matt
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Year Published: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55498-153-3
Grades: Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Teacher Resource

Northwest Passage

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Inspired by Maritime folk singer Stan Roger’s song titled, Northwest Passage, this book alternates between lyrics from Roger’s ballad and information text about the search for the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Sea in northern Canada. The vibrant colours, especially variations of aqua-blue, provides a feel of being in the Arctic waterways. The larger two page spreads of this oversized book of Roger’s song lyrics add to the feeling of the immense task before explorers in bygone years. Changing image sizes and drastic changes in font type and size separate the song from the informational text. At times, this variation is inconsistent, disrupting the flow of the song and information. One item missing from this book is a CD of Stan Rogers singing this iconic folk song, though the music score and lyrics are at the back of the book with A Gallery of Explorers. (You will have to search online to hear a rendition of Stan Rogers singing this song.) Only in reading the end papers of the back cover does one learn of Stan Roger’s equally tragic death in an aircraft fire, traveling the world telling stories of other fated explorers. One wonders what Stan would have written about the ongoing struggle and issues surrounding opening of the Northwest Passage today, if he had survived.
Matt James, is a Canadian painter, illustrator and musician. His other children’s books, ‘Yellow Moon, Apple Moon’ and’ I Know Here’ have previously been finalists for Governor General awards. Matt honours Stan’s musical genius by including images of Stan woven into the illustrations of his song.
This book provides a rich example of songs and stories in Canada’s history and should be in all school libraries in Canada. Both the song and book reminds us of how the land and people of Canada have helped define our identity. It is hard not to sing along once you know the lyrics and melody of this iconic folk song.

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