I've always loved singing, and the sound of a lot of powerful voices joined in harmony. So when a picture book celebrating Stan Rogers' song Northwest Passage showed up in the library, I was thrilled. Never heard of him, you say? Let me explain.
The name Stan Rogers resonates for generations of Canadians. A singer/songwriter who died at 33, he captured the romance of life across the vast landscape of the country. He sang about the prairie farmers, Nova Scotia fishermen, and Alberta oil field workers. His songs portrayed the struggles of average people as heroic. Perhaps that's why his music excites a pride that Canadians don't always exhibit.
I like how this picture book works on so many levels. Follow the lyrics at the top of each page to learn about the ill-fated Franklin and his crew who, in 1845, tried to find a Northwest Passage through the Arctic to Asia. If you want to know more, read the detailed history on each page. Matt James provides gorgeous illustrations that depict Stan Rogers and his dog in his VW van, contemplating Franklin's voyage while making his own cross-country jouney. And of course, those of you who know it can sing along.
This song has particular resonance for me. One day I was with a group musical friends in a cafe when the song came on over the sound system. We all joined in at the top of our lungs, because it's impossible to sing this song quiety. Nearby, a table of tourists commented 'how quaint'. Looking back, I see how incredibly geeky this must have seemed - especially for those who wouldn't understand the mythic status that Stan Rogers had for us.
If you've never had the pleasure of hearing the song, I present to you Northwest Passage, as sung by the great man himself.