Far from Home.
Sylvia Pantaleo is an assistant professor of education specializing in
children’s literature at Queen’s University and the co-author of
Learning with Literature in the Canadian Elementary Classroom.
Wishinsky’s Canadian Flyer Adventures series chronicles the adventures of best friends Emily Bing and Matt Martinez. In each book, the children time travel to the past via a magical sled that was given to Emily by her Great Aunt Miranda. Each book contains the same one page introduction where readers are provided with background information about the sled, including Aunt Miranda’s directions about how to use the magical object. The children select one of the historical artifacts left by Great Aunt Miranda, rub the leaf on the sled and time slip to a particular time in Canadian history. As Matt and Emily fly off on the sled, their clothes magically change to be appropriate in style for each destination. It seems that when the children slip into the past that no time passes in the present, because there is never any mention about the children’s parents noting the absence of Emily and Matt. In a few of the books, some events are conveniently unexplained, such as in Flying High! when the children stay overnight in Nova Scotia and the host parents do not inquire if Emily and Matt have received permission from their parents/guardians to stay the night.
At the end of each book Wishinsky includes a “More About…” section where Emily and Matt, who have engaged in further research about some aspects of their adventure, record their top ten facts. Following the children’s facts, Wishinsky provides additional information about the historical events associated with the topic of the book.
All of the books contain a few black and white illustrations by either Dean Griffiths or Leanne Franson. The illustrations often provide additional information such as showing the clothing worn by Emily and Matt when they time travel to the past. The chapters are short and the books are approximately 80 pages in length. Wishinsky deftly weaves other historical information into each book, which contributes to the authenticity of the setting. In the seven books reviewed, Emily and Matt become involved with other characters in the past and must provide assistance to these individuals in some way. When the children have fulfilled their deeds, a message appears on the sled telling them that it is time to return home.
In Flying High!, Emily selects a small wooden airplane and she and Matt travel to Nova Scotia, 1909. As well as meeting Alexander Graham Bell, the children witness the flight of the first airplane in Canada—the Silver Dart flown by Douglas McCurdy.
In Pioneer Kids, Matt selects an Ukrainian Easter egg (called pysanky) and he and Emily time slip to the prairies, 1910. Here they assist a recent Ukrainian immigrant, Sefan, who is being bullied at school.
Hurry, Freedom is about the Underground Railroad, and Matt and Emily become involved in transporting slaves across the border into Canada in 1858. Their adventures include meeting Harriet Tubman.
A Whale Tale is set in 1778, and the two protagonists travel to the Canadian West Coast, meet Captain Cook, and assist an Aboriginal boy in his desire to join a tribal whale hunt.
All Aboard! takes place in 1885, where the children witness the driving of the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Book 10, Lost in the Snow, takes place in 1605 in Quebec, New France, and Emily and Matt experience some of the hardships of a habitant family.
Finally, Far From Home is set in 1940 in Glenwood, Ontario, and involves British children being evacuated during the war. In the past, Emily and Matt actually travel to Emily’s house in the present and meet Great Aunt Miranda when she was ten years of age.
Overall, the books are entertaining and provide young readers with an engaging way to discover Canadian history.