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Children's Fiction Pre-confederation (to 1867)

The Red Sash

by (author) Jean E. Pendziwol

illustrated by Nicolas Debon

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Aug 2005
Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Native Canadian, Camping & Outdoor Activities
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2005
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3
  • Reading age: 5 to 8


The Red Sash is the story of a young Metis boy who lives near the fur trading post of Fort William, on Lake Superior, nearly 200 years ago.

The Red Sash is the story of a young Metis boy who lives near the fur trading post of Fort William, on Lake Superior, nearly 200 years ago. His father spends the long winter months as a guide, leading voyageurs into the northwest to trade with the Indigenous Peoples for furs. Now it is Rendezvous, when the voyageurs paddle back to Fort William with their packs of furs, and North West Company canoes come from Montreal bringing supplies for the next season. It is a time of feasting and dancing and of voyageurs trading stories around the campfire.

With preparations underway for a feast in the Great Hall, the boy canoes to a nearby island to hunt hare. But once there, a storm begins to brew. As the waves churn to foam, a canoe carrying a gentleman from the North West Company appears, heading toward the island for shelter. The boy helps land the canoe, which has been torn by rocks and waves. Then he saves the day as he paddles the gentleman across to Fort William in his own canoe, earning the gift of a voyageur's red sash.

Jean E. Pendziwol was inspired to write The Red Sash through her involvement with Fort William Historical Park as a volunteer, and she worked closely with the Fort’s historian on the story.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

About the authors

Jean E. Pendziwol has published several highly acclaimed picture books, including Once Upon a Northern Night, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. She is also the author of Marja’s Skis, illustrated by Jirina Marton, and The Red Sash and Dawn Watch, illustrated by Nicolas Debon. Jean’s debut adult novel, The Lightkeeper’s Daughters, will be published in 2017 in more than ten languages. Jean finds inspiration in the rich history, culture and geography of Northwestern Ontario where she lives in the shadow of the Nor’Wester Mountains near Lake Superior.

Jean E. Pendziwol's profile page

NICOLAS DEBON won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for his book The Strongest Man in the World. His illustrations in Dawn Watch by Jean E. Pendziwol were nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award. He has also written and illustrated A Brave Soldier and Four Pictures by Emily Carr. A Canadian, he now lives in France.

Nicolas Debon's profile page


  • Long-listed, Michigan Reading Association's "Great Lakes Great Books"
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice

Editorial Reviews

The Red Sash is...a welcome curriculum resource...

Quill & Quire

Debon's wonderful bold gouache and mixed-media paintings...captivate with their detail of fort life, their freshness perfectly attuned to this tale's tone.

Globe and Mail

Pendziwol gives just enough detail for a real sense of this long-ago way of life....nicely abetted by Debon's gouache and mixed-media spreads.

Horn Book

Librarian Reviews

The Red Sash

Fort William (now Thunder Bay), at the western end of the Great Lakes, was the meeting place for the fur trade. Voyageurs came to sell furs they had gathered from Aboriginal peoples in the western wilderness to representatives from Montreal companies, who would then ship the furs to Europe. It was where the voyageurs stocked up on supplies brought from the East. This story is about a Métis boy, the son of a voyageur and an Aboriginal woman from near Fort William. The boy canoes to a nearby island, where a storm erupts. A canoe carrying an important gentleman from Montreal is damaged. He offers his own canoe and paddles the man to safety.

Pendziwol also wrote Dawn Watch, and was nominated for Governor General’s Literary Award for his illustrations. He also wrote and illustrated A Brave Soldier and illustrated Four Pictures by Emily Carr.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2007-2008.

The Red Sash

A brave Métis boy saves the day – and earns a voyageur sash – nearly 200 years ago. Debon’s historically accurate illustrations give an authentic view of life at this busy fur-trading post.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2006.

Other titles by Jean E. Pendziwol

Other titles by Nicolas Debon