St George's Bay Mi'kmaq

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Francie and the Basket Women

Family members collaborate on children's book


the Georgian

In December 2002, Breakwater Books Limited published Stephenville author Donald Gale's second book, 'Francie and the Basket Women.' The official book launch took place at the Santa Maria Club on Thursday, May 22.

The children's book is about a nine-year-old girl named Francie who refuses to go to a dentist, despite a bad toothache. Her father tells her that if she doesn't go, he'll give her to the basket women. When Francie runs out of the dentist's office for an adventure, she runs into what her father called the 'basket women,' who are Mi'kmaq women with baskets. The women comfort Francie and help her with her toothache, teaching her that the stories she heard about them are only rumours.

It is a book that helps kids understand prejudice, all the while teaching them about aboriginal culture in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"This story was a true story, a story I often heard (my mother) talk about. I added in the Mi'kmaqs... I was intrigued by them," says Donald Gale.

Many people remember that on the West Coast of Newfoundland decades ago, Mi'kmaq women went door to door selling baskets. He said that people were afraid to not buy baskets from these women, as there were rumours spread that if you angered them, they would put a curse on you.

In the book, according to Mr. Gale, a little girl overcomes prejudice when faced with something she's terrified of. The book teaches children the difference between rumour and reality.

The author's son, David, is the illustrator of the book. He is a Visual Arts student at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Comer Brook.

"There was a lot of research involved with the illustrations," says Mr. Gale, whose son is too young to be familiar enough to paint images such as trains. "David has always been an artist. I love his art."

This is the first book that David has illustrated.

Donald Gale's first book, 'Sooshewan: Child of the Beothuk' was also a children's book focusing on aboriginal culture. This book was written over a decade ago when his daughter was in Grade 5, learning about the Beothuk.

"I wrote it because I knew there was a need for it. The Beothuks never seemed like real people. I wanted to make them come to life," says Mr. Gale.

The first book had an incredible response. As for 'Francie and the Basket Women,' he is still hoping that the book does well as it was only recently released.

On June 7, he will be traveling to Toronto to host sign-ings at some Indigo bookstores for his most recent book. Then he will be traveling to Book Expo Canada, where he will have an hour to promote 'Francie and the Basket Women' to writers, publishers, bookstores and the public.

Copyright 2002-2003 Jasen Benwah

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