The only biographies I remember reading as a kid were those old Values books by Ann Donegan Johnson. I particularly remember enjoying the Value of Determination: The Story of Helen Keller. But though I still enjoy reading biographies, and I still enjoy children’s books, I’m not finding that I’m overly enjoying biographies for children. Earlier this year I tried Willow Dawson’s Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffagette Nellie McClung and the Susan Hughes/ Willow Dawson collaboration No Girls Allowed and both left me unfulfilled. I wish I could say the same for David Alexander Robertson’s The Peacemaker Thanadelthur, but I cannot.
This is certainly not a comment on any of their subjects. Indeed, I found Thanadelthur, a Dene woman who strove for peace between her people and the Cree, to be an enormously compelling character. And I think it’s an absolute necessity that people like Roberston are writing about important historical figures such as her. About time Canadian history acknowledges that it didn’t begin with white European settlers (granted, they’re also in the book). No, this is more a comment on me. When it comes to biographies, I want them fleshed out more than a child’s book is likely to offer. But at least I’ve had exposure to this character. And at least kids who come across it will as well. Maybe Thanadelthur’s name will stick with them as Helen Keller did with me.
Robertson’s story, while scant perhaps on enough details to wholly satisfy me, is nonetheless interesting. There is a rather unnecessary frame story— a sister is telling Thanadelthur’s story to her brother as a lesson in courage so that he can deliver a speech to his class— but otherwise there is enough of an adventure to appeal to many children.
Wai Tien’s artwork is rich in colour, with stunning landscapes and interesting angles.