January 26, 2017

Abigail's Wish

by Gloria Ann Wesley
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Nimbus Publishing
978-1-77108-439-0
32 pp.
Ages 4-9
2016

With Black History Month on the horizon, I think I will need to renew last year’s update of youngCanLit valuable for commemorating that important month to include, Abigail's Wish, a lovely picture book about a young girl of a Black Loyalist family.

From Abigail's Wish
by Gloria Ann Wesley 
illus. by Richard Rudnicki
It’s spring and young Abigail is witnessing the dawn of a new season in the world of her new homeland of Nova Scotia.  She still recalls the noise and fears endured during the American Revolution and their long journey by ship from New York in 1783 to the new colony of Birchtown. But she can see forward, looking past the hardships of little food and simple shelter, to the specialness of a day when a new baby would be welcomed.  Abigail’s Aunt Dinah is ready to give birth, and that birth
"…would mean a big celebration: people would bring what they could spare to eat, and the singing and laughter and dancing would be such fun.  Surely, a new dress was needed for such a celebration, Abigail hoped." (pg. 13)
That is Abigail’s wish, for a new dress, and she hopes her mother will use some of their payment of vegetables from cleaning Mrs. Spinney’s house for trade for some fabric at Mr. Tobin’s store.  But it is not to happen.  Returning home, the community has gathered to celebrate the birth of her new cousin, Isaac.  Still Abigail hopes, heading to the church with her mother to see if any donations had arrived from which a suitable dress might be found.  However, as it had been a cold spring and few had undertaken their spring cleaning during which donations often arose, Abigail finds nothing.  Still there is reason to celebrate and Abigail puts her efforts into sewing a quilt for her new cousin from bits and pieces of fabric.  It’s weeks after the celebration that a very special donation just for Abigail helps make her wish finally come true.

From Abigail's Wish
by Gloria Ann Wesley 
illus. by Richard Rudnicki
Gloria Ann Wesley, poet and author of Chasing Freedom (Roseway, 2011) and If This is Freedom (Roseway, 2013), brings a story of the pioneering spirit and the joys of simple successes to the forefront of this picture book of historical fiction.  The birth of a new baby, a job well-paid in produce, a gift of a piece of licorice–all are riches to be appreciated for a Black Loyalist girl who’d already seen much horror in her short life.  A dress becomes the icing on a cake already enjoyed for its flavour and rarity.  Painter Richard Rudnicki, well known for illustrating Gracie, The Public Gardens Duck (Nimbus, 2007) and Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged (Groundwood, 2010), produces a fine mixture of realism and the divine, both which must have impregnated the experiences of Black Loyalists making their way to Canada to establish new homes.  Hardships are plenty but still there are opportunities for diversion and gaiety.  Richard Rudnicki’s art, steeped in the browns and taupes of the naturalness of the land, the everyday clothing and the wood-based interiors, still finds the means to add some mauves and blues, with some reds and yellows, to brighten the reality.  With his art, Richard Rudnicki is able to line Glora Ann Wesley’s story of toil with a quilt of simple joys and appreciation for the goodness of life, helping Abigail's Wish to bring young readers a new awareness of history.

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