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Christmas at Wapos Bay

by Jordan Wheeler & Dennis Jackson

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native canadian, survival stories, boys & men
list price: $4.95
also available: Paperback
published: 2005
publisher: Coteau Books
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Association of Book Publishers of BC
Librarian review

Christmas at Wapos Bay

This novel follows Talon, T-Bear and Raven as they spend Christmas at their Moshom’s (Grandfather’s) cabin. The whole family is supposed to be coming to stay for Christmas, but, due to a large forest fire, Moshom and the kids might not be able to hunt enough meat to feed everyone. Moshom is also getting older and is ill, and Talon, T-Bear and Raven are worried that he’ll make his health worse trying to get the food. They decide that they’ll go out hunting on their own, but there’s a big winter storm coming. This story is an engaging portrayal of family relationships and the importance of life on the land for this extended Cree family.

This book is part of the From Many Peoples series and is also connected to the Wapos BayTV series.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.

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At Christmas time in Northern Saskatchewan, three Cree kids - Talon, Raven and T-Bear - visit their Moshum's (grandfather's) cabin to learn about traditional ways and have a life-changing adventure.

Talon, Raven, and T-Bear, who have never lived in the bush, visit their Moshum's cabin to prepare for Christmas and to learn traditional ways. But food is scarce this year, and Moshum is afraid Christmas may have to be cancelled.

The kids decide to help by going hunting, but they don't understand how unprepared they are or what danger they're in. They get lost, forcing Moshum to come after them. But when they find him collapsed in the bush, it is the children who have to bring Moshum safely home.

The experience helps them to grow in skill and understanding and to become more mature. Their parents come and Christmas isn't cancelled, in fact it's a wonderful, warm celebration, filled with music and feasting. T-Bear, Talon, and Raven learn that they can benefit from two kinds of knowledge - traditional learning through their elders and the things they learn in school.

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Editorial Review

Talon, Raven, and T-Bear, three urban Cree children, are visiting their grandfather (moshum) in his trapline cabin in the northern Saskatchewan wilderness. Christmas is coming, and other family members are expected to arrive soon. But, if the hunt for food is unsuccessful, everyone may have to return to the city. A forest fire earlier in the year has diminished the local animal population, and game may be hard to find.

The three cousins, determined to help, set out alone with a dog sled. When they don't return, Moshum goes out to find them. However, when the children discover him overcome by an illness, they must try to get him home. In the effort of surviving the wilderness, they are challenged to remember the traditional skills that their grandfather has taught them, and, in the process, they learn self-reliance and resourcefulness.

Children will enjoy the plucky characters and exciting story of survival and rescue as well as the depiction of life on a northern trapline. The description of winter in Saskatchewan bush has a cinematic quality perhaps because Christmas at Wapos Bay was originally an award-winning claymation short produced in conjunction with the National Film Board and Dark Thunder Productions in 2002.

Jordan Wheeler writes scripts for television including 'North of 60' and 'Moccasin Flats and co-author Dennis Jackson, who operates Dark Thunder production company, is developing a 'Wapos Bay' series for Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Christmas at Wapos Bay is a strong contribution to the 'From Many Peoples' series that celebrates diversity in Saskatchewan from the viewpoints of young people from different cultures. Article by Jane Bridle. One family event that Justice cherishes is the occasional visit to his grandparents on the reserve, which is a few hours drive in their mother's rickety old car. On those mornings, Justice bounds out of bed and gulps down his breakfast. It is Justice's chance to interact with his Mushum (grandfather), who teaches him hunting skills and talks to him about traditional first nations values, including respect and kindness. On one visit, Mushum takes Justice to visit a grumpy neighbour, Mr. Blackquill, who lives alone since his wife died. The old man does not welcome the visitors. Mushum persists, giving him a gift of bannock bread baked by Kokum (grandmother) and insisting on staying for coffee.The men finally enjoy friendly banter about the old days and share hearty laughs.

Later, Justice tells Mushum about Trey and the bullying. They talk about the futility of revenge. Mushum tells Justice that people who are angry are usually in pain. Justice thinks about this when he goes back to school and finds Trey as aggressive as ever. The threats and taunts cause Justice to fear for his safety. The twins' mother worries, but they are afraid to tell on Trey and the gang. Justice decides to talk to their mother and a bullying education assembly is called at school. That only causes Trey and his friends to increase their harassment. After school, Justice is knocked almost unconscious.

Finally, outside events intervene to give Justice a reprieve. Trey's family gets in trouble with the law, and the court places him in a temporary home away from the community. The little group can now relax. Justice will have time to work out how he will cope with Trey when the time comes again. The plot is laid out clearly and is just suspenseful enough to keep a youngster reading. The vocabulary is challenging, but will not require frequent discouraging dictionary checks. This is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. Ramona Kiyoshk, of the Ojibway First Nation, is a freelance writer.

— CM Magazine
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About the Authors

Jordan Wheeler

Jordan Wheeler is a Fifth House Books author.
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Dennis Jackson

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