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Children's Fiction Multigenerational

The Old Ways

by (author) Susan Chapman

illustrated by John Mantha

Fifth House Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2014
Multigenerational, Native Canadian, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2014
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3


Simon enjoys school, TV, pizza, and video games. So when his grandmother tells legends of the sea goddess, Sedna, and his grandfather invites him to build an igloo, Simon's heart sinks.

"Sorry Ananaksaq, my show is on. Sorry, Ataatga, maybe another time," he responds.

Secretly he thinks his grandparents are stuck in their old ways. Secretly his grandparents hide their disappointment and wait for "another time."

Soon enough, that other times comes. When he and his grandparents prepare to visit relatives in Igloolik, Simon thinks it is ridiculous to heap oil lamps, extra fuel, tools, food, snowshoes, and caribou skins onto their sled. But when a blizzard closes in, and the snowmobile breaks down, Simon begins to understand the value of traditional ways.

As the storm rages, they manage to stay snug and fed thanks to the igloo Ataatga builds and the supplies Ananaksaq has provided. When the weather clears, Ataatga snowshoes off in search of help, and that is when Simon learns the true value of Ananaksaq's stories. Afraid, and with nothing to distract him from their situation, Simon listens to tales of flying polar bears and crows bringing light to the North. When his grandmother's voice falters, Simon even discovers he is a good storyteller too.

Finally, the hum of engines signals rescue. The family is reunited and makes it safely to Igloolik. But that night, Simon has a special request. "Ataatga, I would like to learn more about the old ways. Tomorrow will you show me how to build an igloo?"

Carefully researched and beautifully illustrated, The Old Ways brings the sparkle of sun on fresh snow to the traditional wisdom of the elders.

About the authors

Susan Chapman, a former primary teacher and teacher-librarian with a great interest in storytelling. She has taught in the Toronto and Markham, Ontario area, and in East Africa. Her first picture book, a story adapted from an old folktale, was Too Much Noise in the Library.

Susan Chapman's profile page

John Mantha is a Toronto-based artist and illustrator. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art. John is the illustrator of twenty-six books including The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration.

John Mantha's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The Old Ways a gently told story creating no doubts in the reader's mind that the "old ways" of the title will see the family through a crisis. When the modern world intrudes again in the rescue scene, we can also predict that Simon will be ready to appreciate their value. But like the "old ways", this old tale is worth repeating."
Highly Recommended."
CM Magazine

"While The Old Ways is a lovely and valuable resource for teachers to introduce the concept of comparing cultures, over time and place, it is also a story of connecting between generations, recognizing that sharing is a demonstration of respect and should be appreciated as such."
CanLit for LittleCanadians

"This is a story that could preach its message to young readers. Instead, it creates a world that values both the old and the new. . . John Mantha's artwork shares a world that few readers will have experienced. Warmth of family love is evident, as is the power of nature to threaten life. His use of warm colors for the interior scenes contrast sharply with the cool colors that show the drama of the approaching storm. These images add context and depth to a story well told."
Sal's Fiction Addiction

Other titles by John Mantha