The smallest voyageur by Margi Preus

The smallest voyageur by Margi Preus

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A Canadian squirrel walks to the river in The Littlest Voyageur, a charming animal story by a Newbery honorary author.

The smallest voyageur by Margi Preus. Vacation Home, 2020, 165 pages (including author's notes).

Reading level: Intermediate, 8-10 years

Recommended for: Ages 7-12

Who says a squirrel cannot hear the call of adventure? Jean Pierre Petite le Rouge may be small, but his heart beats for the song of the voyageurs who return from their trade trip to the far west. And so, on a beautiful spring morning in Montreal, he stows a canoe that is only occupied by men named Jean. First and foremost Jean Gentille, in whose vest pocket the blind passenger hides until he comes out safely. From the bow of the canoe, he announces his great ambition: "To explore the unexplored, to discover the undiscovered and to try the still unpleasant."

It's a shame that none of the crew members speak squirrels, but Jean Gentille is at least friendly. He protects their fellow travelers with a series of small breakdowns until they reach their rendezvous. There Jean Pierre makes a terrible discovery: the goods they trade for are animal skins! Disillusioned with humanity, he packs his possessions into a tiny sack and sets off for the wilderness. He channels Thoreau and announces, "I'm going to the forest to live on purpose." But life in the wild is not a picnic, and it will soon be in extreme danger – which leads to a rescue, new friends and a bold plan. . .

Everything is good, it ends well in this delightful story of a small but spunky protagonist (commissioned by Arthur and Humphrey in the Church mouse series). The charcoal illustrations add to the charm, and Jean Pierre's serious explanations are great reading material. But make sure you brush up on your French first. In the appendix you will find practical pronunciation instructions as well as information about the French-Canadian fur trade and a recipe for fried bannock.

Overall rating: 4.5 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 4
  • Artistic / literary value: 5

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