Sunday, January 17, 2016
Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond. Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2015. $20.50 ages 5 and up
In an author's note following this thrilling family story, Rebecca Bond lets her audience know that it is about her grandfather - only one of the many stories she knows about him. It happened in the summer of 1914, while he was living in a hotel run by his mother. That three-story hotel welcomed travelers and sportsmen to the area, and it even offered accommodation for longer periods of time for those working in the surrounding forest.
Antonio loved the hustle and bustle that their many visitors provided. He also loved to wander the nearby forest, listening to its sounds, following its many tracks, and wanting the forest animals to always be safe and sheltered from those men who worked and hunted nearby.
In the year that Antonio turned five, something terrible and wonderful happened:
"... the summer was so dry the
green carpets of moss yellowed, the silky grass crisped, and the
pine needles on the trees turned brittle. One day, a miner on the
third floor spotted smoke in the hills and sounded the alarm.
Antonio knew they were in real danger."
There was nowhere for anyone to go but the lake! Every person in town stood in the water and watched the fire approach. It was a tremendous surprise when the animals started coming out of the forest and into the lake as well. Survival was the goal. Together, humans and animals, waited until they knew it was safe again. Life returned to normal, as impossible as that seems.
Tones of sepia, gray and green infuse the watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, allowing readers a clear look at scenes from the early twentieth century in Ontario, and of one very memorable event. Details in the writing are accompanied by many fine details in each and every image. The busy scenes within the hotel are counterbalanced by the quiet of the forest and the eerie calm of the lake as humans and animals share the only safe place. These images guarantee that we will not soon forget this beautifully told tale.