The Christmas Canoe
Illustrated by Magdalene Carson
Shelley’s time in the Ottawa Valley researching the songs and stories of former loggers inspired his cheery tale of how Père Noël brings Christmas to the snowbound crew of an old-time lumber shanty. The jovial “maître” of the revels arrives in a giant, magic, flying canoe packed with Christmas goodies and paddled by elf voyageurs.
Shelley’s story is a turnabout of the classic Quebec folktale, La Chasse-galérie, rendered in Valley English (and sometimes French), in rhyming verse à la Robert W. Service:
I spent most of my youth cutting timber for Booth
The Ottawa’s old lumber king
We would skid, saw, and haul the whole winter from fall
Then come out with the drive in the spring . . .
“Joyeuses fêtes, mes amis! You are unhappy, I see
Passing here such a sad reveillon—
So I bring Christmas bonheur with my companions voyageurs
As “Père Noël des chantiers” I am known.
Magdalene Carson’s witty illustrations delight the eye. You can almost feel the cold of the swirling snow, the warmth of the shanty’s camboose fire, the breezy eddies of Père Noël’s great canoe as it passes overhead.
The Christmas Canoe blends old and new, fact and fancy, and the lore of the Ottawa Valley’s Irish and French communities, to create a charming new traditional tale to read aloud at any season.