by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Marchand de feuilles, 2018
Maud is born in Gaspésie, then moves to Mingan where she grows up alongside her 13 brothers and sisters. Her eyes become accustomed to the vast beauty of the world. How can she ever live without it?
Maud falls in love with Jimmy, a broad-shouldered Scot. Together, they set out for Hudson Bay. Up there in the intense cold, the sky appears limitless and the sun clings to the snow.
Maud hunts, fishes, and traps with the Cree, the First Nations people who live in Northern Quebec. She learns to find her way in a desert of snow, which is renamed Eeyou Istchee, or “The People’s Land.”
One day her friends come to see her. They are worried, because their traps are failing. Beavers are disappearing, and without these animals the Cree are poor; to them, beaver fur is money. The Cree exchange the fur for food, clothes, and tools.
Maud is worried: something must be done. She harnesses her dogs. She leans forward and whispers gentle words in their ears to give them courage. She needs them.
Maud bundles up: it’s 45 degrees below zero! Her children climb onto the sled. She could never leave them behind. They, too, dream of adventure! Maud wraps them in the warmest skins she owns, and together they rush out onto the icy expanse. They fly straight across the taiga at 30 km/h. They travel 400 kilometres without seeing a single person!
The brave expedition finally arrives in Quebec City. Maud, head held high, spurs the policy-makers into action: the beaver must be saved! She refuses to leave until a decision is made. The survival of the Cree is at stake.
A few days later, Maud, her dogs, and her children return victorious. There will now be a protected reserve of more than 18,600 square kilometres! So much land for the happy beavers, which can now multiply in peace. Hunting gradually picks up again. Thanks to Maud’s courage and her powers of persuasion, she has ensured her friends’ survival.
In the frozen lands of the north, Maud Watt is still known as the “Angel of Hudson Bay.”
Translated by Arielle Aaronson