Mary of Mile 18
Story and Pictures by Ann Blades
1971 First Hardcover Printing,
Montreal: Tundra Books
It seems I've always known the story of Mary Fehr, a young girl living in northern British Columbia. Indeed this book was a favourite of all my elementary school teachers and came home with me many times from the school library. It's true that we saw harsh yet, beautiful winters here in Nova Scotia but Mary lived through the winter with much less comfort and way more responsibility than either I or most other children I knew at the time.
Though this book touches on the hardships of enduring a cold Canadian winter without such comforts as running water, electricity and indoor plumbing, it does so in such a quiet and understated way. The beauty of growing up with a strong sense of hardworking values in a large and loving family, shines through in this book.
I can't imagine any child not feeling the pull of wanting a puppy when Mary finds a stray half wolf-pup and wants to keep him. Her father though, is quick to remind her that animals must earn their keep on a farm and wolf-pups are useless.
Sadly Mary goes off with the pup while the others go about their jobs ... The pup snuggles in Mary's arms as she carries him into the woods. How she wishes she could keep him!
Still tugs at my heart!
Ann Blades gentle watercolours perfectly capture the cold and lonesome beauty of a northern Canadian winter. The bare limbs of trees, the soft and ever present snow, the wonder and magic of Northern Lights and one stealthy and snarling coyote, illustrate and contribute to the enduring charm of Mary of Mile 18.
A Canadian classic to be enjoyed by all ages, everywhere!
** Ann Blades was just twenty years old and working as a teacher at a tiny country schoolhouse in the northern village of Mile 18 when she created what would become a childrens book sensation. Unable to find books for her students that represented their lives, she decided to write and illustrate her own stories. Mary of Mile 18 was her first book and included the students she taught that year. The Vancouver Art Gallery exhibited the tender naive paintings, and the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians in 1972 chose it the BOOK OF THE YEAR in the largest and most enthusiastic vote ever given a book. Translated into many languages including Swedish, Danish and German, Mary of Mile 18 celebrated it's 30th printing in 2001.
A Boy of Tache and A Salmon for Simon are among Ann Blade's other award winning books. **