Antonio Willie Giroux lived in a hotel his mother ran on the edge of a lake. He loved to explore the woods and look for animals, but they always remained hidden away. One hot, dry summer, when Antonio was almost five, disaster struck: a fire rushed through the forest. Everyone ran to the lake-the only safe place in town-and stood knee-deep in water as they watched the fire. Then, slowly, animals emerged from their forest home and joined the people in the water…
Out of the Woods, a gorgeously written and illustrated picture book from Rebecca Bond, tells readers the true life story of Antonio Willie Giroux, and the events of one incredible, magical and harrowing summer in Ontario, 1914. Author and illustrator Bond, the granddaughter of Giroux, has brought to life a wondrous and evocative story that can be treasured by readers young and old.
Restrained and refined in both text and colour palette, Giroux’s boyhood spent on Gowanda Lake reads as nostalgic yet matter-of-fact; the events that transpired during the infamous fire read as taut yet almost otherworldly. Something as consuming and potentially catastrophic as a forest fire is undoubtedly frightening, but Bond’s telling of her grandfather’s summer revolves around an incredible act of animals and people respecting each other in tragedy. Bond’s illustrations- especially those full spreads of the lake and surrounds during the fire, dripping in rich, burnt colours- are something to behold. A testament to just how important the oral tradition is, of passing down stories from generation to generation, Antonio Willie Giroux’s captivating story is one that I am very happy to now know.
Overall, I highly recommend Out of the Woods. This well-reviewed picture book is yet another fabulous addition into the growing genre of biographical/non-fiction picture books- a genre which I am becoming increasingly fond of. Rich with wonder and beauty as well as insight into a slice of Canadian history- of another time, of another place- there really is something for readers of all ages to be amazed by.
I received a copy of this book from Raincoast in exchange for an honest review.