In the Red Canoe

“In the red canoe” by Leslie A. Davidson, illustrated by Laura Bifano, is one of my favourite take alongs for outdoors outings. A story in rhyme of a kid paddling in a canoe on a lake with his grandfather, it conveys the strong sense of wonder and communion with nature that I wish my little gosling to experience. Its mellow tempo and melancholy makes it perfect for our bedtime reading as well, for slowing down. Little gosling also enjoys reading it and regularly asks for it. It’s also one of my favourite books featuring the connection between grandfather – grandchild; it reflects and inspires so much warmth and tenderness, without taking center stage. 

Illustrations exquisitely accompany the text. Putting into words the child’s perspective, the illustrations play around with long shots and close-ups from different angles, like coming up from deep down in the water to see the child bowing down to touch the fish swirling around or seeing from the side the child lying down on his grandfather’s knees and observing the swallows flying overhead. My favourite is the canoe sliding between a sea of yellow water lilies and beautiful dragonflies. Little gosling is fascinated by the movement of the paddle, repeating “dip and swing” like he would want to memorise it for when he goes canoeing :P, by the industrious beavers, always pointing to all chopped down trees and the underwater tunnels, the golden ducklings queuing behind their mommy and the child trying to catch an elusive leaping frog. 

The bond between the grandfather and grandchild is so organic and so subtly present in small details here and there in both text and illustrations. And there’s something so sweet, endearing and lasting about the grandfather carrying the sleeping child in his arms back to the house at the end of the story…  

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