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Children’s gems from D&M

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that a critical mass of Canadian-owned publishers existed, concerned with Canadian cultural identity. One of those pioneer publishers was Douglas & McIntyre (the original imprint of D&M Publishers), an outgrowth of J.J. Douglas Ltd launched in 1971. Judith Saltman pays tribute to their titles for kids.

June 23rd, 2014

Children's literature maven Judith Saltman of UBC celebrates D&M titles with a personal essay.

The bumper crop of top quality children’s book from Douglas & McIntyre was seeded in 1978 when Ann Blades provided illustrations for Betty Waterton’s charming A Salmon for Simon, republished in an 35th anniversary edition last year.

by Judith Saltman

D&M has had a huge influence on the Canadian publishing industry: it was the only Canadian-owned publisher to successfully grow, over forty years, from a small regional house to one of the largest, with a Canada-wide and international market, and this without abandoning its Pacific Northwest Canadian identity. Following the recent upheavals of bankruptcy, mergers, and sales to foreign ownership of major Canadian-owned publishers, such as McClelland and Stewart, D&M was the last major publisher in Canada to have remained independent and Canadian-owned. It was an icon, symbolic of a viable Canadian publishing industry and of a West Coast Canadian literature for adults and children.

Those of us engaged with Canadian children’s books and who believe in the value of an independent publishing industry in Canada were saddened by the announcement in October 2012 that D&M had filed for bankruptcy protection, owing its creditors more than $6 million (Lederman). By February 2013, after two extensions granted by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, D&M had found buyers for its assets, which were divided and purchased by a number of British Columbia-based publishers. D&M Publishers sold its natural history and environmental imprint Greystone Books to Heritage House Publishing (Woo). Harbour Publishing absorbed the remains of the flagship imprint, Douglas and McIntyre (Medley, “Harbour”). The imprint New Society Publishers was reacquired by its previous owners (Woods).

In the flurry of Canadian media coverage surrounding the D&M crisis, the situation was identified as a national tragedy, a “major catastrophe for Canadian publishing,” and a sign of the demise of “the dream of an independent Canadian publishing industry” (Barber). A repeated observation was that D&M was the last of the major players left in Canada’s publishing industry to have remained independent of mergers and foreign investment (Medley, “Canadian”), despite the challenges facing the Canadian publishing industry as a whole: “The Web, the internet, Amazon, changes to the industry and how readers access books. It’s putting a lot of pressure on the business model” (“Reaction”).

Since October, elegiac media articles have lauded D&M for its award-winning fiction and nonfiction on Canadian art and architecture, politics, history and culture, First Nations studies, and social and environmental issues. Conspicuously absent from this conversation and national mourning was discussion of the importance of Douglas & McIntyre in the history of children’s book publishing in Canada. I was, therefore, pleased when Mavis Reimer requested that I review D&M’s contribution to the children’s book industry in Canada.

On the surface, it would appear that D&M’s most important venture into publishing for children was its arrangement, from 1980 to 2005, to provide funding and support for the award-winning Canadian children’s book publisher Groundwood Books. According to Patsy Aldana, former publisher of Groundwood, “I think it’s fair to say that D&M was not a children’s publisher until Groundwood came along…. After [the business agreement between D&M and Groundwood], the children’s list, whether fiction or non-fiction, buy in or originated in Canada was essentially created by Groundwood, though for a while we used two imprints” (Aldana 2012).

Groundwood, under the imprint of Douglas & McIntyre (“A Groundwood Book”), has issued hundreds of Canadian children’s books, and many are now considered classics. My review, however, examines the titles D&M issued on its own, without “A Groundwood Book” imprint on the title page.

My research of D&M’s publications, both the front and back lists, beginning with publications from the early 1970s, revealed many more children’s titles than I had expected and a variety of children’s book imprints and co-publications. I have identified more than 30 D&M trade books, unrelated to Groundwood Books, as well as scores of educational titles. I review here only select titles that represent the trends and patterns of D&M’s trade publishing history. For context, I include a brief history of the publisher. I include quotations from interviews conducted for the Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books Project.

Until the 1970s and the rise of independent Canadian publishers, books available for Canadian children’s reading, on library and bookstore shelves, were predominantly drawn from American and British imports. Few children’s books were published in Canada. Founded in 1971, D&M was originally named J.J. Douglas Ltd. and co-owned by Jim Douglas and Scott McIntyre. Renamed Douglas & McIntyre around 1980, the new publishing house experienced problems endemic to all Canadian publishers: lack of economies of scale due to a small national population, undercapitalization, competition from imports and foreign-owned Canadian branch plant publishers, and the high cost of illustrated children’s books. D&M was one of the groups of Canadian publishers to look beyond these concerns and the scarcity of experienced authors, illustrator, editors and manuscripts. It took commercial and aesthetic risks associated with the Ontario-based emerging small specialized children’s presses of the era (Groundwood, Annick Press, Kids Can Press, Tundra Books), but its focus was regional and Pacific Northwest in its adult and children’s publishing programs. Unlike most presses, D&M focused on Canadian West Coast content, and championed Canadian children’s books with a West Coast sensibility and spirit of place.

Douglas & McIntyre broke away from the narratives of wilderness adventure, history and biography that dominated Canadian publishing before the 1970s and issued children’s books across genres: poetry, picturebooks, traditional Aboriginal narratives authored by both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, and nonfiction. It initiated the first nonfiction series on Aboriginal history and culture that moved beyond the formulaic textbooks of Native life. It established a series on Canadian communities for the educational market. It co-published a series of children’s nonfiction about the environment with the David Suzuki Foundation. It established two imprints: one, in 1993, Greystone Books, issued environmental and British Columbia-oriented fiction and nonfiction, including children’s books.

The most significant of D&M’s initiatives in children’s publishing may be its productive partnership with Patsy Aldana and Groundwood Books, launched in 1980, and concluded in 2005, when Groundwood was sold to Toronto’s House of Anansi Press. The most literary of Canadian children’s book publishers, Groundwood is known worldwide for its sociopolitically progressive, risk-taking, and quality titles. Groundwood’s list of authors and illustrators includes stellar names in Canadian literature for children and young adults: Martha Brooks, Brian Doyle, Deborah Ellis, Sarah Ellis, Marie-Louise Gay, Polly Horvath, Thomas King, Janet Lunn, Ian Wallace, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Paul Yee. Without its alliance with D&M, it is possible that Groundwood Books wouldn’t have developed or even survived.

Kidlit classic "A Salmon for Simon"

Kidlit classic “A Salmon for Simon”

Patsy Aldana, Groundwood’s publisher for almost forty years, and who retired in January 2013, describes the relationship: Douglas and McIntyre became my distributor from the very beginning. In fact, the Groundwood list and [D&M’s] A Salmon for Simon [1978] were launched together. We had a big, splashy launch and that was the beginning of our relationship. When I ran out of my own personal money, Douglas and McIntyre and I entered into a more elaborate arrangement in which they basically finance[d] the company. However, the company is still mine, and I own all copyrights. But they pay the bills… Douglas and McIntyre receive[d] all the sales and all the revenues. (Aldana 2003)

When I contacted a small sample of five Groundwood authors and illustrators and asked if they felt connected to D&M, the answers were mixed. A few, such as Karen Reczuch and Sue Ann Alderson, noted that they felt close to Scott McIntyre in particular. The majority said that their allegiance was with the editorial staff from Groundwood, but that they respected D&M deeply. Ian Wallace sums it up best: “While I saw myself first and foremost as a Groundwood author/illustrator…, I truly admired and respected both Scott and Jim and the vision they had for the kind of publishing house they wanted to create in Canada, the books they wanted to publish by Canadian authors and artists, and the profound contribution they made to Canada’s literary landscape” (Wallace).

Two pioneer picturebook creators, Ann Blades and Betty Waterton, however, had a much closer working relationship with D&M and Scott McIntyre. In the early 1970s, Canada still had very few picturebooks published except for those from Oxford University Press and Tundra Books. Before they established the partnership with Groundwood, D&M issued a small number of picturebooks that were exceptional for the era and strongly reflected West Coast talents and sensibility.

Betty Waterton published two picturebooks with Douglas and McIntyre. She discussed her isolation as a West Coast writer and how she found D&M in the early 1970s: [I]t was certainly difficult getting published. I had sent out A Salmon for Simon to nine or more publishers — all the big Canadian publishers. Finally someone said “Why don’t you try a west-coast publisher?” I’d never even heard of Douglas and McIntyre before but I sent two manuscripts together to them – A Salmon for Simon and Pettranella along with my illustrations. They took both of them and got Ann Blades to illustrate them with her wonderful pictures. Then I got really excited about writing and wrote a lot of children’s manuscripts and sent them all to Scott McIntyre. He wrote me and said: “What are we going to do with you? We can’t publish all these books.” As soon as Patsy Aldana connected with them, they sent my manuscripts to her. (Waterton)

A Salmon for Simon (1978) is the most successful of D&M’s children’s books. It sold internationally and is still in print in several countries. Its success is evident in the news that, for Groundwood’s celebration of its 35th anniversary in 2013, it will reissue a collection of six classics, including A Salmon for Simon (Blades 2013). Waterton’s narrative has inner conflict and tension. The illustrations portray the boy as Aboriginal and set the scene at a distance from a Pacific Northwest coastal village. The boy dreams of catching a salmon and, instead, rescues and frees a salmon fallen from the grip of an eagle, digging a trench for the trapped salmon to swim away from a clam hole to the ocean. Although it was one of the first Canadian picturebooks to portray a contemporary, rather than a stereotypical historical First Nations child, and without feeling the need to identify the child’s Aboriginal identity in the writing, it is a problematic text. It has been both applauded for a subtle depiction of an Aboriginal child’s bond with his environment and criticized for its lack of authenticity.

DePasquale and Wolf highlight this picturebook as a prime example of what happens when non-Aboriginal voices in the Canadian publishing industry dominate those of Aboriginal peoples in the narration of Aboriginal experience: “[It] won the Governor General’s Literary Award for illustrations…. Today it is frequently taught in schools, is in its twelfth printing, and is considered a “‘Canadian classic’” (149).

Patsy Aldana, who republished this title as a Groundwood book, had this to say about its troubling lack of authenticity and its widespread appeal: “[A title that] has sold incredibly well, that is total cultural appropriation because neither the author nor the illustrator is Native, is A Salmon for Simon. I have to say that it bothers me that books by Chinese people and by Native people don’t sell as well as these books do. They’re clearly more palatable to the Canadian audience. Despite what people say, I know this is true. Books by Chinese people, by Native people, by people of colour – especially Latinos – don’t sell as well in Canada as books by white people about those subjects or about any other subjects. So, despite our multiculturalism, we’re clearly not entirely open to them. … A Salmon for Simon is in many ways a perfect picturebook, but I don’t think it really needs to be about a Native child, in a sense. It’s doesn’t use an entire world …. It is more like a fairy tale than like a real portrait of a people.” (Aldana 2003)



An alternative vision of Aboriginal narrative for children as distinct from the comfortable majority culture “fairy tale” appeared two years later, in 1980, when Theytus Books and Pemmican Press, the first Canadian Aboriginal-owned and -operated publishers, were established. Theytus and Pemmican, and more recent small Aboriginal publishers, faced the challenges of finding Aboriginal writers and illustrators and building a critical mass of Aboriginal-themed narratives. Their publications include a strong concentration of children’s titles, focusing on the contemporary as well as the traditional, challenging past stereotypes in image and text. Non-Aboriginal mainstream presses, however, still dominate the market for narratives about Aboriginal life and culture. The Aboriginal publishing productions cannot compete with mainstream publishers in terms of resources, production values, or marketing and promotion, but find their niche in terms of voice and authenticity (Edwards and Saltman 125-6).

The illustrations by Ann Blades for A Salmon for Simon are in her usual soft watercolour washes in a forest- and ocean-toned palette, and show her growth from the talented naïve artist of her earlier books to a more thoughtful and careful draughtsman and colourist. The sense of place – the Pacific Northwest shoreline and First Nation village — is subtly conveyed. Scott McIntyre was the editor and gave Blades complete freedom in creating her artwork. After a career spanning 45 years, Blades is most attached to the art for this book: “I feel that my strongest illustrations by far in all my work are those for A Salmon for Simon, because of the feelings I had for the boy and the west coast….Were these paintings my best because Scott McIntyre gave me total freedom to express my feelings for the text?” (Blades 2002)

While Blades’ art is aesthetically appealing, it creates, in its interplay with Waterton’s text is a problematic, romanticized pastoral idyll, or in Aldana’s words, a “fairy tale.” For contextualization, Aboriginal-authored and -published picturebooks are created so that Aboriginal children will recognize themselves and their lives; the child characters are written against the grain of earlier publications and portrayed as contemporary, engaged in modern and traditional learning practices and experiences, and living within a community of intergenerational relationships. By contrast, the child in A Salmon for Simon is alone, despite the illustrations of distant village houses. Reminiscent of “majority culture images and themes” (Edwards and Saltman 2006), and evoking reader expectations drawn from stereotypical representations of Aboriginal culture and identity, the boy is depicted in art and text as isolated, on the edge of a wilderness, at spiritual oneness with nature, and metaphorically engaged in a type of spirit quest.

Following A Salmon for Simon, D&M established itself as a publisher that recognized the need in Canada for Aboriginal materials for children. It issued a groundbreaking series for the 1970s. Beginning in 1973, D&M created the series “How They Lived in Canada,” seven nonfiction titles on Aboriginal life and culture designed as crossovers for the trade and educational markets. Two titles were written by Maria Campbell, one of Canada’s most important Métis writers and an Aboriginal activist. She authored How the Plains Indians Lived (1976) and Riel’s People: How the Métis Lived (1978). Aldana praises the nonfiction list: “While these books weren’t written by First Nations except for the Maria Campbell books, they were very early in recognizing the need for material about and for First Nations children and they were very good non-fiction books” (Aldana 2012). From Métis and Inuit to Iroquois, the Aboriginal cultures were treated with greater respect than they had been in the majority of nonfiction titles on Aboriginal life published from this period. The illustrations, primarily sketches in pencil or ink, are carefully researched. Each text builds a worldview of the historical way of life of a First Nation, including the socio-political, religious, domestic, and cultural values and beliefs and structures. Relatively short at between 41 and 47 pages and addressed to non-Aboriginal middle-grade readers as introductions and material for school projects, they represented a shift in the portrayal of Aboriginal people compared to titles of similar content available from other publishers in the 1970s. The D&M titles did not solely focus on traditional, pre-contact history, but addressed contemporary life and political realities such as land claims and the legacy of colonialism. Their reception, as evident in librarian-authored reviews, indicated the recognition that the series reflected a change in perspective and content: as librarian and award-winning author Kit Pearson states in a 1977 review, they were written “with the intention of clearing up … stereotypes” (Pearson 35).

Métis author Campbell’s titles are possibly the first informational books published for children in Canada on Aboriginal life to take a political stance. In Riel’s People, she discusses the Riel Rebellions in unbiased detail, Riel with dignity, and modern Métis life with an engaged political voice. In People of the Buffalo, she addresses concerns of contemporary Aboriginal life with clearly political implications: “Today Indian people are fighting back by using the laws that almost destroyed them, but most important of all they are going back to their spiritual way of life. That is the most important weapon of all: to know who you are and where you come from.” (People of the Buffalo, 47)Saltman13 Igloo

In 1981, D&M issued two contrasting titles on Inuit culture and life. Ulli Steltzer’s Building an Igloo is a crossover adult-to-child visual documentary in Steltzer’s black-and-white photographs of a contemporary Inuit father constructing, with his son, an igloo in the traditional manner, but using a modern saw. By contrast, Garnet Hewitt’s Ytek and the Arctic Orchid, illustrated by Heather Woodall, one of Canada’s first single-edition Inuit traditional stories in picturebook format, feels a fevered and non-authentic romantic interpretation of a shaman quest. Compared to traditional retellings of Aboriginal story in today’s publishing environment, it seems fraught with modern embellishments and psychological excess.

From their founding in 1980, the Canadian Aboriginal-owned presses Theytus Books and Pemmican Press issued, among other texts, contemporary preschool domestic narratives of Aboriginal children and culturally authentic versions of traditional story published according to indigenous protocols. The audience was primarily Aboriginal but expanded to include non-Aboriginal markets. After a hiatus in publishing First Nations content, Groundwood Books, as a D&M imprint, began to publish titles by such Aboriginal authors and illustrators as Nicola I. Campbell (Maria Campbell’s niece), Thomas King, Larry Loyie, and Shirley Sterling.

D&M, however, did not publish another Aboriginal title marketed for children until their publications in 2009 and 2010 of texts by Haida fine artist Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, who introduced an experimental and aesthetically arresting contemporary First Nations vision into children’s and young adult literature in Canada. His works are atypical children’s and YA books. They push cultural expectations and stereotypes in both art and text and are considered adult art books as well as crossover books with appeal to teens and children. With their fine production values, and their highlighting of Yahgulanaas’ braiding of contemporary Haida and Manga art and cultural traditions together to shape his trademark Haida Manga style, Yahgulanaas’ illustrated books could be situated within the book arts tradition, similar to the fine art by First Nations artist Bill Reid for Robert Bringhurst’s Raven Steals the Light (also D&M, 1984; and reviewed, upon publication, as both a children’s and adult book) and First Nations gallery artist George Littlechild’s illustrations for picturebooks written by Richard Van Camp.

The innovative Red: A Haida Manga (2009), written and illustrated by Yahgulanaas, is a young adult crossover with its appeal to the comics and graphic novel community. Yahgulanaas’ illustrations for his retelling of a traditional Haida story of epic revenge use Haida formline conventions melded with Japanese Manga. He created a four-metre-long mural painting of sixteen panels (reproduced in the endpages of the book), which he then redesigned into graphic narrative sequences, adding the aesthetic and grammatical manga and comic elements of hand lettering, thought and speech balloons, stylized figures, shaped sound words, and action and movement symbols. Even for consumers familiar with the conventions of the comics and graphic novel, the sophisticated narrative sequencing is a stimulating challenge in logic and intuition.

A parable of environmental activism and cooperation

A parable of environmental activism and cooperation

The Little Hummingbird (2010), published by D&M imprint Greystone Books, retold and illustrated by Yahgulanaas, is based on a South American narrative from the Quechuan tradition. A note states that the hummingbird figure and parallels to this environmental tale are found in variants among many indigenous cultures. In this dramatic parable of environmental activism and cooperation, the tiny hummingbird acts as a conscience to a community of animals as it, alone, bravely carries beads of water to fight a forest fire. The publication is in a larger format – adapted from Duodecimo to Octavo – than Yahgulanaas’original Flight of the Hummingbird (2009), issued by D&M for an adult audience, with environmental messages from the Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace winner Wangari Maathai. In both books, the illustrations in traditional Haida colours of black and white against the intense red of fire, are rendered in pen, ink, brush and digitally designed in geometric Haida patterns. The endpapers are handsome black and grey abstract designs based on Haida forms and include the image for the single drop of water and animal eyes and wings. Yahgulanaas, unconcerned with issues of misappropriation or pan-Indian representation in Aboriginal publishing, consciously creates an inclusive text with resonance in many different hummingbird tales from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although the Haida and Quechuan traditions are sources for the tale, his illustrated forest animals are drawn from a broader global family. Seemingly set in the Canadian forest, the animals include the Haida beaver and bear, but also the tiger and elephant.

Regional publishers often are a venue for regional voices that find it more difficult to be heard and recognized by central Canadian Ontario publishers. D&M was committed to publishing not just Canadian but also British Columbian authors and illustrators for decades, as well as attending to spirit of place in its publications. Almost all of the authors and illustrators of the children’s and young adult books mentioned in this article are British Columbian residents: Jack Richards, Len Norris, Ann Blades, Betty Waterton, Sarah Ellis, Maggie deVries, Ainslie Manson, David Suzuki and Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas.

An example is the local Vancouver-based team of Richards and Norris, which created one of D&M’s first published books and its very first book for children, the Christmas fable Johann’s Gift to Christmas (1972). Richards, a respected sports and theatre critic for the local newspaper Vancouver Sun, was known for his wit and elegant style; Norris, a hugely popular Vancouver Sun editorial cartoonist, was a Canadian master of sharp political and social parody and satirical images. Their collaboration created an endearing historical fantasy set in the Austrian village of Oberndorf in 1818. A music-loving mouse gnaws through a church organ’s bellows, resulting in the organist creating an alternative composition for Christmas music — the carol “Silent Night.” The illustrations for the long text in this picture-storybook reflect Norris’ gift for caricature and satirical social history, as sharply comic and lively in detail in his pen and ink and wash depictions of 1818’s Tyrolean alps society as in his skewering of mid-20th century British Columbia characters. This simple, sweet story was a huge success. It was set to music and performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, was animated as a short film and sold over 150,000 copies in five countries (Sherlock).

D&M was noted for its quality line of adult books on Canadian history. Its only children’s book in this area is Betty Waterton’s Pettranella (1980) illustrated by Ann Blades. Waterton tells the story of a young girl’s adjustment to prairie homesteading in early twentieth-century Manitoba. The child’s mourning of her loss of family changes to a sense of belonging in the new landscape, symbolized by the blooming of spring flowers from her grandmother’s seeds which crossed the Atlantic with the family. This was one of the first Canadian picturebooks on the subject of immigration and became a model for the large numbers of Canadian prairie immigration picturebooks that were published in the 1980s and 1990s.

Blades’s illustrations of child and landscape evoke a changing emotional and psychological atmosphere, from the cramped, dark, dreary images depicting the unnamed European country to bright, luminous skies and prairie horizons. The transformation in colour is perhaps not entirely intentional. Bladestells a story that contextualizes the new brightness in her palette. She began her career as a self-taught artist, and her paintings have a naïve folk quality. Her watercolour paintings for Pettranella are created with two distinct sets of materials. For the first two illustrations, she used plain, inexpensive drawing paper and “Reeves watercolours in a little red paint box like children use” (Blades 2002). Beginning with the third illustration, following a discussion with the American illustrator Graham Booth at the University of British Columbia’s Pacific Rim Conference on Children’s Literature in 1976, she switched to artist-quality materials— tubes of Windsor and Newton watercolours and artists’ watercolour paper. Blades remembers: “He was horrified [at] my little red paint box, with the little discs of paint. And he said, ‘You should be using artist quality paints and watercolour paper’” (Blades 2002). The new quality materials led to a transformation of colour, a rippled effect of paint on paper, and a stronger sense of brightness and light in the remainder of the illustrations and in Blades’s future works. Whether the result of an abrupt change to artist quality materials or the result of a natural growth as a painter, Blades’ use of paint and colour palette is more delicate in Pettranella than in her earlier works.


The picturebook “Big City Bees”

With Pettranella, Waterton joined the core of Canadian writers of the 1970s and 1980s who used specific local place names, situating Canadian texts within Canadian geography as an element of cultural identity and place for the first generation of Canadian children to find themselves and their country in stories. It is ironic, then, that in the Vanguard American edition, the reference to Manitoba in the last sentence is replaced with a reference to Minnesota: “Petranella’s flowers bloom each year beside a country road in Minnesota.” Waterton was not consulted about the change (Waterton). This type of substitution in American editions of Canadian and other “foreign” titles was common in 1980, when Pettranella was published, and continues to this day. American editors regularly replace non-American locations, place names, colloquialisms, and cultural markers with American counterparts in the belief that foreign elements would reduce American children’s ability to identify with characters and settings, and subsequently reduce sales to the institutional and retail markets (Edwards and Saltman 211-213).

D&M’s adult list has included significant numbers of environmental titles for adults. This developed further with the launch in 1993 of its environmental and natural history and science imprint Greystone Books, which published for both adults and children, including Yahgulanaas’ environmental hummingbird parable. Three picturebooks published under the Greystone imprint were written by Maggie de Vries and illustrated by Renné Benoit: Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story (2006), Fraser Bear: A Cub’s Life (2010), and Big City Bees (2012). All are written in the genre of the nature narrative, educational natural history nonfiction shaped within the narrative conventions of character and story. De Vries’ works are set against British Columbia’s mountains, rivers, and cities, and the implications of conservation and ecological awareness are nuanced subtexts rather than didactic messages.

One of the original genres of early Canadian children’s literature at the turn of thetwentieth century was that of the wild animal biography, developed by Charles G.D. Roberts and Ernest Thompson Seton, and recognized worldwide in its era as strongly as the domestic realism of L.M. Montgomery. This tradition has almost disappeared from Canadian children’s publishing for older children, having transformed into material for preschoolers, from articles in natural history magazines (Owl, Chickadee, Chirp) and picturebooks of researched nonfiction or fictionalized fact, which are strikingly different in tone and content from anthropomorphized animal fantasies for the same age. De Vries’ writing in her fact-based narratives avoids anthropomorphism and follows in the Canadian tradition of the wild animal biography, grounded in the realism and authenticity of natural history, created by Ernest Thompson Seton and Charles G.D. Roberts at the turn of the twentieth century.

Her life cycle narratives of a black bear cub (Fraser Bear) and an ancient, almost 200-year old White Sturgeon (Tale of a Great White Fish) are meticulously researched. Both are intertwined with separate narrative strands—with the life cycle of the Pacific Salmon and its epic struggle to spawn in Fraser Bear and, in Great White Fish,with the biography of Rick Hansen, British Columbia’s wheelchair athlete and activist for the disabled, who witnessed, as a child, the leap from a B.C. river of an ancient giant sturgeon. Benoit’s painterly illustrations of animal life and natural environments are lush and detailed. Her images of the bear are massive and rounded, and use different points of view to emphasize his bulk and power. Her illustrations of human portraits and figures, however, are less successful, with many faces resembling the snub-nosed, cartoonish Tintin.


One of a series of children’s books co-published with the David Suzuki Foundation

Rick Hansen appears again in two picturebook biographies published by D&M/ Greystone: Boy in Motion: Rick Hansen’s Story (2007)and Roll On: Rick Hansen Wheels around the World (2012), both written by Ainslie Manson and illustrated by Rénee Benoit. The two picturebooks extend the D&M focus on adult biographies of significant B.C. figures. In simple, direct writing appropriate to the preschool and primary grade market, Manson gives a sense of Hansen’s identity, exuberant personality as a child, loneliness and pain after a driving accident left him a paraplegic, and adjustment to a vital life of courage and determination, including the world wide journey of his Man in Motion World Tour. Manson dramatizes details that bring life to the biographical facts and the personal spirit that has made Hanson an inspiring icon in Canadian society.

The message of conservation and awareness of endangered species found in de Vries’s three titles and their strong B.C. settings, from Vancouver highrises to Fraser River historical details and landscape, are also present in a D&M/ Greystone picturebook, Salmon Forest (2003), part of a series of children’s books co-published with the David Suzuki Foundation, which are co-authored by the Vancouver-based, world-renowned environmentalist and activist David Suzuki. The titles include picturebooks and older informational texts with science and environmental activities, experiments, and games (Eco-fun [200]); You Are the Earth [2010]; There’s a Barnyard in My Bedroom [2008]). Of these titles, Salmon Forest is the strongest in art and text. Written by David Suzuki in collaboration with Sarah Ellis, the text reflects the D&M focus on the Pacific Northwest rainforest – its natural history and ecology. Suzuki and Ellis collaborate on a text that gracefully presents the scientific facts of the life cycle of the Pacific Sockeye salmon, its habitat and ecology. The science is provided by Suzuki, while Ellis builds the framework narrative of the father and daughter hiking to the forest river. The watercolour washes by Sheena Lott shimmer with the colours of the forest and the rivers. The forest and waters ecosystem, the wild life of spawning salmon and bears scooping salmon, the presence of First Nations, and the interconnectedness of landscape and animal and human life are all themes found in many of the D&M titles published for children over forty years.

The critical mass of Northwest Coast-themed children’s titles that is D&M’s legacy has added to the growing numbers of titles from authors and illustrators across Canada who have chosen the specificity of regional identity over a bland globalized vision of childhood. Sarah Ellis comments on this quality of regionalism in Canadian children’s book text and art and its value to Canadian cultural identity: “It … give[s] you … that wonderful moment of recognition when you go to a place and you know it because you’ve read about it. English children have had this for generations. We are just starting to get this feeling …. It gives you a literary familiarity which is such a delightful experience at any age. If we are going to survive as a country, I think it is essential” (Ellis).

In the aftermath of its breakup, Douglas & McIntyre will be significantly reduced. The separate imprints, however, will continue in some form, and may retain aspects of the risk-taking, courage and commitment to Canadian culture and the Pacific Northwest of the parent publisher. The original Douglas & McIntyre imprint was acquired by Howard White of Harbour Publishing, also a West Coast publishing independent with a commitment to B.C. culture and history. Harbour’s own children’s publishing has included First Nations traditional narratives and Pacific Northwest-based titles. Perhaps Douglas & McIntyre has landed on its feet. Let’s give Scott McIntyre the last word. Speaking of the sale of D&M to Harbour, and Greystone to Heritage House, he states: “In perilous times for independent publishers everywhere, this is very good news for our writers, for their books, for the legacy of D&M’s forty year publishing record, and for Canada” (Medley).


Saltman, Judith. “A Publisher’s Legacy: The Children’s Books of Douglas & McIntyre.” Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 5, no. 1 (Summer 2013): 132-148.

It is reprinted here with the kind permission of editor Larissa Wodtke.



Campbell, Maria. People of the Buffalo: How the Plains Indians Lived. Illus. Douglas Tait and Shannon Twofeathers. Vancouver: Douglas, 1976. 47 pp. O.P. pb. ISBN 088894-329-6. Print. How They Lived in Canada.

—. Riel’s People: How the Métis Lived. Illus. David MacLagan. Vancouver: Douglas, 1978. 47 pp. $9.95 pb. ISBN 0-88894-393-8.Print. How They Lived in Canada.

De Vries, Maggie. Big City Bees. Illus. Renné Benoit. Vancouver: Greystone-D & M, 2012. [48 pp.] $19.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-906-8. Print.

—. Fraser Bear: A Cub’s Life. Illus. Renné Benoit. Vancouver: Greystone-D & M, 2010. [48 pp.] $12.95 pb ISBN 1-926812-95-6. Print.

—. Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story. Illus. Renné Benoit. Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas, 2006. [48 pp.] $12.95 hc. ISBN 1-55365-125-1. Print.

Hewitt, Garnet. Ytek and the Arctic Orchid: An Inuit Legend. Illus. Heather Woodall. Vancouver: Douglas, 1981. 40 pp. O.P. hc. ISBN 0-88894-238-9. Print.

Manson, Ainslie. Boy in Motion: Rick Hansen’s Story. Illus. Renné Benoit. Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas, 2007. [48 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-252-6; 2009. $12.50 pb. ISBN 1-55365-427-7. Print.

—. Roll On: Rick Hansen Wheels around the World. Illus. Ron Lightburn. Vancouver: Greystone-D & M, 2012. [48 pp.] $19.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-529-9. Print.

Reid, Bill, and Robert Bringhurst. The Raven Steals the Light, Illus. Bill Reid. Vancouver: Douglas, 1984; Seattle: U of Washington P., 1984. 91 pp. O.P. hc. ISBN 0-88894-447-0; 1996. $14.95 pb. ISBN 1-55054-481-0. Print.

Richards, Jack. Johann’s Gift to Christmas. Illus. Len Norris. Vancouver: Douglas, 1972. [34 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 0-88894-007-6; 1992. $6.95 ISBN 1-55054-226-5. Print.

Steltzer, Ulli. Building an Igloo. Vancouver: Douglas, 1981. [32 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 088894-325-3. Print.

Suzuki, David. There’s a Barnyard in My Bedroom. Illus. Eugenie Fernandes. Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas; Suzuki Foundation, 2008. 64 pp. $12.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-329-5. Print.

—, and Kathy Vanderlinden. Eco-Fun: Great Projects, Experiments, and Games for a Greener Earth. Illus. Jane Kurisu. Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas; Suzuki Foundation, 2001. Print.

—, and Kathy Vanderlinden. You Are the Earth. Illus. Wallace Edwards. Vancouver: Greystone-D & M; Suzuki Foundation, 2010. 2nd ed. Originally pub as You Are the Earth: from Dinosaur Breath to Pizza from Dirt. 1999. 128 pp. $16.95 hc. ISBN 1-55054-823-9. Print.

—, and Sarah Ellis. SalmonForest. Illus. Sheena Lott. Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas; Suzuki Foundation, 2003. [32 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 1-550540937-5; Print.

Waterton, Betty. Pettranella. Illus. Ann Blades. Vancouver: Douglas, 1980. [32 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 0-88894-237-0; Groundwood, 2003. [32 pp.] $5.95 pb. ISBN 0-88899-560-1. Print.

—. A Salmon for Simon. Illus. Ann Blades. Vancouver: Douglas, 1978. [32 pp.] O.P. hc. ISBN 0-88894-168-4; Rev. ed. Groundwood, 1996. [32 pp.] $14.95 hc. ISBN 0-88899-265-3. Print.

Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll. Red: A Haida Manga. Vancouver: Douglas, 2009. 112 pp. $28.95. hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-353-0. Print.

—, with a message from Wangari Maathai. The Little Hummingbird. Originally publ. under title: Flight of the Hummingbird. Vancouver: Greystone-D & M, 2010. [32 pp.] $18.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-533-6. Print.

—, with Wangari Maathai and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment.Vancouver: Greystone-Douglas, 2008. 64 pp. $16.00 hc. ISBN 978-1-55365-372-1. Print.


Works Cited

Aldana, Patsy. Email interview. 12 Nov. 2012.

—. Personal interview. 18 June 2003.

Alderson, Sue Ann. Personal interview. 2 Dec. 2012.

Barber, John. “Publishing: Say Goodbye to Douglas & McIntyre & a 40-year Publishing Dream.” Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

Blades, Ann. Email interview. 24 Feb. 2013.

—. Email interview. 6 March 2013.

—. Personal interview by Gail Edwards, Judith Saltman, Kathryn Shoemaker.

28 Sept. 2002.

DePasquale, Paul, and Doris Wolf. “A Select Bibliography of Canadian Picture Books for Children by Aboriginal Authors.” CCL: Canadian Children’s Literature /Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse 115-116 (204): 144-59. Print.

Edwards, Gail, and Judith Saltman. Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

Ellis, Sarah. Personal interview. 13 May 2003.

Lederman, Marsha. “Publishing: Douglas & McIntyre More than $6-million in Debt, Documents Show.” Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail, 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 2 Nov. 2012.

Medley, Mark. “Afterword: Canadian Publishing Industry Reacts to Douglas & McIntyre News.” National Post. National Post, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

—. “Harbour Publishing Acquires Douglas & McIntyre.” National Post. National Post,

6 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.

Pearson, Kit. Rev. of People of the Buffalo: How the Plains Indians Lived, by Maria Campbell. In Review: Canadian Books for Children 11.2 (Spring 1977): 34-35.

“Reaction to Douglas & McIntyre Filing for Bankruptcy Protection.” CBC. Canadian Broadcast. Corp., 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012.

Reczuch, Karen. Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2013.

Sherlock, Tracy. “Publisher’s Story Is a Real Page-Turner.” Vancouver Sun. Pacific Newspaper Group, 17 Sept. 2001. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.

Wallace, Ian. Email interview. 13 Nov. 2012.

Waterton, Betty. Telephone interview. 28 April 2004.

Woo, Andrea. “Publishing: Heritage House Buys Assets of Greystone Books from D&M Publishers.” Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

Woods, Stuart. “Court Documents Reveal D&M Sale in the Works.” Quill and Quire. St. Joseph Media, 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.



4 Responses to “Children’s gems from D&M”

  1. Thank you, Judith, for your superb survey of D&M/Groundwood published BC Children’s books, a list that still resonates with young readers today. I’m pleased to hear that Howard White is open to receiving submissions of kids’ book manuscripts. Perhaps more classics in the offing??

  2. […] A publisher's legacy: the children's books of Douglas & McIntyre: Those of us engaged with Canadian children's…  […]

  3. Howard White says:

    Wow, what a treat to read such an intelligent, in-depth article on any aspect of BC publishing! Thank you, Judith Saltman. And yes, the re-constituted D&M is fully open to publishing more children’s books.

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