HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Curse of the Viking Grave
Author: Farley Mowat
Illustrator: Charles Geer
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., reprinted in 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0316586337 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0771066801 Paperback
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Young adult
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Mowat, Farley. The Curse of the Viking Grave (published in 1966 by Atlantic-Little Brown and Co.; republished in 1993 by McClelland and Stewart Inc., 481 University Ave., Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E9, Canada). Several years ago, when our boys were little, we watched a couple of Feature Films for Families movies entitled Lost in the Barrens and its sequel, The Curse of the Viking Grave, both based on Farley Mowat’s books of the same names. I have previously read and reviewed Lost in the Barrens in which sixteen year old Jamie Macnair had to leave his Toronto, Ontario, school after his parents died, and went to live with his uncle Angus Macnair, who made his living as a fur trapper and trader, at Macnair Lake in far north Manitoba, where he makes friends with Awasin Meewasin, the son of the local Woodland Cree Indian band chief. Jamie and Awasin go with some Chipeweyans on a deer hunt into the Barrens near Eskimo territory but get separated from the hunting party when they make a side trip to see the “Great Stone House” and must spend the dangerous winter season by themselves in the solitary north lands, eventually returning with another friend, Peetyuck Anderson, a part Eskimo boy whose English trapper father had died. Mowat, who also wrote Owls in the Family (1962), a semi-autobiographical book about his childhood, passed away in May of this year.
In The Curse of the Viking Grave, Uncle Angus goes off to sell some of his furs, comes down with a serious case of influenza, and is being treated as a charity patient. When Jamie hears of this, he gets the idea of returning to the “Great Stone House” to retrieve some of the Viking relics with the hope of selling them to a museum for money to pay for his uncle’s treatment. So the three boys, along with Awasin’s sister Angeline, set off on their mission. However, they learn that the police are after Jamie to put him in foster care. And they find that some of the Eskimos are none too keen on desecrating the Viking grave because of an old curse. Will the youngsters get caught? Can they make it to the “Great Stone House,” or will the Eskimos keep them from it? And how will four teenagers get to Churchill all by themselves to sell the relics? As for language, the “d” word is used once. There are some common euphemisms (darn, heck, gosh), along with the phrases “ye gods” and “devils of hell,” and a couple of references to smoking pipes. However, this story of survival is packed with excitement and contains little-known information about the customs of Viking explorers and the hunting methods of the Eskimos. It also portrays the bond of youthful friendship and the wonders of a virtually unexplored land.