The Littlest Voyageur

Written by Cheryl Pilgrim (illus.) Margi Preus
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

Jean Pierre Petite Le Rouge has a big name for such a little fellow. He’s a red squirrel raised in the watery wilds near Montreal, Canada, in 1792. He longs to be a Voyageur, one of the rough-and-ready fur traders active from the late seventeenth through the mid nineteenth centuries. Known for their hardy nature and rousing rowing songs, the Voyageurs canoed the desolate waterways, coming together at yearly rendezvous to sell, trade, and rabble-rouse.

Le Rouge joins a crew of eight Voyageurs, seven of whom would just as soon cook him up for dinner. One becomes a friend and protects him from the others. As they travel along, Le Rouge tries to help his fellow crew members and manages to muck up things more often than not.

This delightful story is filled with wonder and excitement, and the reader is lifted high by Le Rouge’s joys. His horrors are equally powerful, since it soon becomes clear that the Voyageurs harvest furs from many animals during their travels. Most of the book is light-hearted and sprinkled with humor that young readers will enjoy.

Historical details are inserted effortlessly along with beautiful descriptions of the scenery. Occasional French words or phrases reminds the reader of the Voyageurs’ culture and practices in an unobtrusive way. The pencil drawings add whimsy as well as bring to life the dense wilderness.

Overall, a highly recommended, fast-moving story that will amuse, inform, and entertain young readers.