Reading this collection of Charles G.D. Robert’s animal stories I could see what their appeal would have been oh so long ago (the stories were published in the late 1800/early 1900s). In my mind’s eye I imagine a family sitting around the fireplace as the father reads these aloud to the perked ears of eager children. This was before Disney and his animators started personifying animals – there are no cutesy characters here. That isn’t to say Roberts didn’t give voice and personality to creatures that, at the time, didn’t have a team of writers behind them deciding if the young strapping moose king should sound (and look) like Zac Efron. Or if the poor Canadian Goose who can’t fly south but won’t stop trying (there is a woman involved) should be voiced by Steve Buschemi. But these are real animal stories; death and survival play a significant role.
My two favourite stories were The King of The Mamozekel about an ungainly moose-calf who becomes king of the moose (mooses?) and The Homesickness of Kehonka about the aforementioned Canadian Goose. I really enjoyed these stories but not being a kid myself anymore I can’t say if these would have the same appeal to the youth of today as they did once-upon-a-time. After all, there are no vampires, wizards, faeries or under-aged James Bond characters in any of the stories and from what I have seen on the bookstore shelves these days that is all the kids are interested in (or at least all that is being sold to them).
I think I will try reading these stories to my girls when they are older though – might as well get them started on the Canadian Lit while they are young, eh?
Death toll: In animal stories everyone dies eventually.