A Canadian red squirrel takes to the river in The Littlest Voyageur, a charming animal story by a Newbery honor author.
The Littlest Voyageur by Margi Preus. Holiday House, 2020, 165 pages (including author notes).
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: Ages 7-12
Who says a squirrel can’t hear the call of adventure? Jean Pierre Petite le Rouge may be small in size, but his heart thrills at the song of the voyageurs returning from their trading jaunt to the far west. And so, one fine spring morning in Montreal, he stows aboard a canoe crewed entirely by men named Jean. Primarily Jean Gentille, in whose vest pocket the stowaway hides until it’s safe to come out. From the bow of the canoe he proclaims his grand ambition: “to explore the unexplored, discover the undiscovered, and taste the as yet untasted.”
Too bad none of the crew speaks Squirrel, but Jean Gentille is at least kindly disposed. He protects their fellow traveler through a series of small mishaps until they reach their rendezvous. There Jean Pierre makes a terrible discovery: the merchandise they’ve come to trade for is animal pelts! Disillusioned with mankind, he packs up his possessions in a tiny sack and heads for the wilderness. Channeling Thoreau, he announces, “I am going into the woods to live deliberately.” But life in the wild is no picnic, and he soon runs into extreme danger—leading to a rescue, a new set of friends, and a bold plan . . .
All’s well that ends well in this delightful tale of a small but spunky protagonist (on the order of Arthur and Humphrey in the Church Mice series). The charcoal illustrations add to the charm, and Jean Pierre’s earnest declarations make great read-aloud material. But be sure to brush up on your French first. A handy pronunciation guide is included in the appendix, along with information on the French-Canadian fur trade and a recipe for fried bannock.
Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Artistic/literary value: 5
Also at Redeemed Reader:
- Margi Preus won her Newbery honor for Heart of a Samurai (starred review). Other Preus books we’ve reviewed are Shadow on the Mountain and Village of Scoundrels.
- Like squirrels? We’ve got squirrels! See our reviews of The Secret Life of Squirrels (and Back to School), Nuts to You, and Toaff’s Way.
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