Where The River Takes Me
Where the River Takes Me [Scholastic Canada Ltd.] is one in a series of Dear Canada books designed for 12 year old girls, give or take a birthday. Each one is written in the form of a diary. This particular diary is subtitled The Hudson’s Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair.
Once upon a time, way up north in a foreign province, I bagged groceries at a Hudson’s Bay Company store but that has very little to do with this book, except to show a filament connecting me with Jenna Sinclair.
Oh, and centuries apart, one time or another we wrapped ourselves up cuddly warm in our respective Hudson’s Bay blankets.
An aside of almost no importance: This is the first book I actually have read in 2017.
Why start the year with twelve year old Jenna Sinclair’s diary? Here’s why. Thirteen years ago, at the birth of our first granddaughter, Missus started reading this series, thinking it would be a suitable heirloom for said granddaughter when she reached Jenna’s age.
By the time Granddaughter reached her twelfth birthday, Missus had a shelf lined off with Dear Canada books. Immediately after the birthday balloons popped, Missus showed Granddaughter the stogged shelf.
“I’ve been saving these for you all your life,” Missus said.
“Oh,” said Granddaughter, running a finger along the spines and pulling out a book — this one, in fact.
Granddaughter flipped perfunctorily through the book before sliding it back into its slot…
… and heading off to read a graphic novel — graphic novel! For frig sake! — about some babysitting club. So I’ve read this book for Missus. In 1850, accompanying her Aunt Grace and auntie’s new husband, Jenna left Fort Edmonton with a brigade of Hudson’s Bay Company employees and travelled the river routes all the way to — eventually — Fort Victoria.
Of course, Jenna’s diary is the story of her adventures, or, capital A Adventures, as she calls them.
During her Adventures, Jenna saw many things that I found interesting.
A breed of now-extinct white dogs, for instance.
The Salish people from over around British Columbia reared longhaired, Spritz-type (whatever that is) dogs for their white hair which — mixed with mountain goat hair — was then woven into clothing.
Guess what those dogs were called. Salish Wool Dogs. Truly. Ask Mr. Google. Twelve or thirteen — p’raps even 17 or 18 — year old girls might not believe certain gender specific [?] subjects explored in this book.
For example, the study of Deportment…
… which has nothing to do with being shipped back to one’s home country.
It has to do with young girls learning to move, “smoothly, elegantly, gracefully” and even how to hold their skirt tails properly when walking through mud.
Listen to this line from Jenna’s diary regarding Deportment lessons: “All of which are supposed to make us ‘good material’ for a suitable marriage.”
Jenna was reared up in a Hudson’s Bay Company fort. You’d expect her to have eaten more than a plateful of wild game, buffalo hump, boiled beaver tails and things of that ilk — of that elk [!]. But, b’ys… … in one diary entry Jenna reminisces fondly — mouth-wateringly so — about being served her favourite tasty treat: “helpings of moose nose, my favourite.” Moose nose! I’m not one to eat wild grub. Considering its content, baloney is prob’ly the most exotic fare I can manage and — I s’pose — if it was made way out west, might very well contain a smidgen of moose nose. Moose nose! I can’t fathom chowing down on a pair of baked moosey nostrils but I did visit Mr. Google to check out his recipes.
Sure enough, he had some … with pictures.
The Dear Canada series is essentially historical fiction aimed at offering its readers a glimpse of our country’s past while at the same time spinning entertaining yarns.
They are attractive books, wellbound between colourful hard covers. They are worth the price tag: $14 or $15 — but p’raps not the recently added sales tax here in Dwight’s Ballroom. Sure, each book has its own attached bookmark — a ribbon. How nice is that?
Jenna and I have both seen were the Frazer River flows into the Pacific Ocean. Jenna left shore and paddled across the water towards Vancouver Island. I left the ground and flew towards Prince George, following the Rocky Mountains’ spine.
During take-off a woman complained to the flight attendant that she couldn’t locate the floatation device beneath her seat.
As the plane banked and climbed away from the same ocean Jenna crossed, and levelled off out above snow-capped peaks, the attendant said, “Ma’am, we won’t be flying over water.” I laughed and laughed. Thank you for reading.