The Christie Harris papers: an inventory of the archive at by University of Calgary. Libraries. Special Collections

By University of Calgary. Libraries. Special Collections Division, Marlys Chevrefils, Apollonia Steele, Alexandra A. West

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If I were looking for a covering metaphor to describe what I see in Harris's writing for young people, I couldn't do better than to go to this image of the helper driven over and over by her nature to make a comfortable nest from and in the material world as a way of helping a child in trouble. A benign presence is created through the narrative voice in many of her books, a strong sense of an adult who understands and allows for the follies and the vagaries of the young. The young people in her books are often in trouble, sometimes of their own making but often because of the malice of others, and solutions are not always allowed them.

They are clued into this originally by an elf friend, a sort of fairy-tale helper, and are able to repeat the gift for each parent. These are slight tales but they do have a theme that consistently interests Harris: the nature of gifting. All her later highly successful Haida Mouse Woman stories emphasize the importance of gifting for Northwest Indian societies, of something received needing a reciprocal giving, to keep the balance in nature. In the later work, gifting is pictured as much more complicated than I have suggested here.

This book was a Junior Literary Guild selection and it also won the International Book Year award for British Columbia's Best in Juvenile Literature for 1972. , set in the two worlds of skymen and Indians, the one dominated by mechanistic thinking and a lack of emotion and the other permeated with a belief in the reality of the spirit world, in the "invisible people of the forest" (8), is Harris's version of Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods. There is no doubt that she finds the so-called primitive world of the natives much superior to anything the "advanced" civilization of Tlu can produce.

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