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Polly MacCauley’s Finest Divinest Wooliest Gift of All

By Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Darka Erdelji. Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides, 2017. 68 pages, $19.95.
Reviewed by Sabeen Abbas

Polly MacCauley’s Finest Divinest Wooliest Gift of All is a tall tale set in the real-world community of River John, Nova Scotia where the author, Sheree Fitch, lives. This is a story meant to be read aloud with its onomatopoeic verbs and snippets of dialogue. The birth of a baby lamb, named Star, causes quite a commotion. Star’s first sounds travel over the ocean to the far-off land of Woolland where “woolionaires,” the Count and Countess of Fleece and Fluff, live. Not satisfied with all they already have, they decide they need Star to make more wool. In River John, mystical Polly MacCauley also heard the baby lamb and heads to Lismore Sheep Farm so that she may care for Star and use her wool for the “finest, divinest, wooliest gift of all.” The villagers must band together to protect Star from being taken away by the Count and Countess of Woolland. Darka Erdelji’s illustrations use a soothing palette of creams, blues, greens and pops of colour to draw you into the story. There is movement on every page as sheep jump through ribbons of sky, children fly kites and Polly MacCauley travels on her mission to reach Star.

K-8 learners will enjoy listening to this tall tale as a read aloud. Connections to the Language Curriculum include exploring folktales around the world. Connections to the grade 1-4 Science Curriculum, Understanding Structures and Mechanisms, might focus on how sheep’s fleece is turned into wool. The Social Studies curriculum can be incorporated by linking to the Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities strand. Students can compare and contrast the roles and responsibilities in their community with those in River John. This story lends itself to the Drama curriculum with students exploring different perspectives by taking on the roles of Polly MacCauley, the Count and Countess of Woolland and other community members. A community connection might be to invite family members who know how to knit to lead a workshop for students.

The story carries a hopeful message for readers that everyday people can create the change they want by coming together to fight injustices and that small, everyday acts of courage might be as simple as making something beautiful with your hands.

Sabeen Abbas is a member of the Peel Occasional Teacher Local.