Kimmel, an expert in folktales and their origins, retells a mysterious story about six French-Canadian fur traders who use a magical flying canoe to get home to Montreal for Christmas.
The voyageurs are stuck in a remote location in Ontario on Christmas Eve, missing their families. A stranger in the clothing of the early explorers suddenly appears, offering them transport home if they will remain silent for the entire trip. Their canoe magically floats above the clouds as the men paddle silently, communicating with Indian sign language. One of the men speaks up on arriving home, causing the reappearance of the stranger, who is just about to send them back when the canoe gets stuck on the spire of the cathedral, allowing the men to escape. Evocative illustrations from Daniel San Souci, in collaboration with his son Justin, offer spooky views of the moonlit canoe sailing over lakes, forests and a fort in northern Michigan. Though the story has some humorous moments, the fluidity of the signed communication between the men as they paddle through the dark skies strains credulity (they are holding paddles, after all), and the motivation of the stranger offering the magical transportation is unclear.
But folktales are sometimes allowed to be a little puzzling, and the talents of Kimmel and the San Soucis keep this enigmatic and unusual Christmas story aloft. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)