November 27, 2019

Summer North Coming

Written by Dorothy Bentley
Illustrated by Jessica Bartram
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
November 2019

Though a picture book titled Summer North Coming may seem incongruous for release in November, Dorothy Bentley and Jessica Bartram's book is actually very suitable for this time of year, and just about any, as it examines in verse and art the changing of seasons and activity in the north.

Divided into two parts, Summer North Coming and Winter North Coming, Alberta author Dorothy Bentley takes the reader across muskeg and forests, shores and skies, and inside to experience all with two children.
From Summer North Coming by Dorothy Bentley, illus. by Jessica Bartram
From her first quintain which accompanies the two children paddling through the open water of marshland, Dorothy Bentley immerses us in Alberta's far north.
Fragrant muskeg rose,
tickle my nose
sun climb,
warm shine
summer north coming
Soon the children are picking raspberries in their birch bark baskets, ready for jam-making and spreading on bannock. Then they're swimming in a river and running through rain puddles and dreaming of flight on bats and birds. With the leaves falling and "summer north fading," preparations for winter begin. The family puts on their beaded mukluks and go fishing, and later enjoy a hearty meal.
From Summer North Coming by Dorothy Bentley, illus. by Jessica Bartram
In the later half of the book, winter has set in and the children play in the snow, relish a dog sled run, watch ravens at play, and enjoy some winter camping. Indoors everyone partakes in venison stew and some family games before a final spread which foretells the end of the cold season.
Hills icy sliding,
crash mud landing
sun roams, 
earth moans
winter north melting
Dorothy Bentley makes the seasonal activities of a northern family with some Indigenous roots into a sensory experience. From the berry-stained hands to thunder loud calling and daytime smiles yawning, Summer North Coming is an evocative rendering in words and art of life in northern Canada. Ottawa artist Jessica Bromley Bartram provides the visual for Dorothy Bentley's expressive free verse, giving the illustrations a folksy feel of family who enjoy the outdoors and live with the seasons. The art, which appears to be a blend of watercolour, gouache and pencil crayon, is surprisingly detailed–the trees in the forest are easily identifiable–yet organic in its rounded edges and softness of energy.

Summer may have passed for now and winter is here and not, but Summer North Coming will take young readers through all the seasons as they advance and retreat in the subarctic environment of northern Canada.
From Summer North Coming by Dorothy Bentley, illus. by Jessica Bartram

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