Puffin Classics: Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

puffin-bird-75.jpgThis November, Penguin Canada will publish new editions of four classic Canadian books as part of the Puffin Classics Series. These four editions are introduced by other celebrated authors and will feature brand-new cover art from renowned Canadian illustrators. 

CBC Books is excited to team up with Penguin Canada to reveal these covers, one at a time, the week of April 22! We're also hosting an exciting contest in which you could win book prize packs, courtesy of Penguin Canada (more information below)!

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

UndergroundtoCanadaThe third cover we're revealing this week is for Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker, which follows a young slave girl, Julilly, as she tries to escape to Canada using the Underground Railroad. Lawrence Hill wrote the introduction for the new edition and the cover was illustrated by Scott McKowen. Underground to Canada has had many covers since first being published in 1977, so we asked McKowen what he did to make his cover stand out.

"I'm a dual Canadian/U.S. citizen. I grew up on the 'other' side of the border, in Michigan, and I remember being fascinated by stories of the Underground Railroad (our state was on the 'route' to Canada) — but I was not familiar with Barbara Smucker's book.

I felt it was very important that the cover avoid depressing or degrading stereotypes. Julilly would be worried about her situation, but she takes action to change it. I wanted to show her as a strong, brave, curious and resourceful character.

I work in scratchboard, an engraving medium in which white lines are carved into an all-black surface using an X-Acto knife. I often get assignments with historical settings, because engraving was the popular art form of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. So the medium itself was key to making a connection with the time period of the story. My illustrations are very 'naturalistic' so I needed a good reference to draw from — once we decided that Julilly would be looking out from a dark 'hiding place' somewhere along her journey north, I made reference photos of a model in period costume to get all the details of the drawing right."

Classic Covers Contest!

As part of this special cover launch, we're also giving away Puffin Classics book sets, courtesy of Penguin Canada. To enter, all you need to do is to answer the following question in the comments section below: "What Canadian children's classic would you like to see re-released with a brand-new cover?" We will accept one entry for every user, although you can enter by commenting on any of the Puffin Classics cover reveal posts this week. We will be accepting entries until Monday, May 6, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On Tuesday, we'll select five winners in a random draw! CBC.ca contest rules apply.

Author/illustrator biographies:


kit-pearson-70.jpg Barbara Smucker was one of Canada's best-known and best-loved authors of fiction for children and young adults. Born in Kansas, Smucker came to Canada in 1969, and worked as a reporter, teacher and librarian. Throughout her career, she was profoundly affected by civil rights issues, which informed works such as Days of Terror, White Mist and Underground to Canada. She won multiple awards for her work, including the Vicky Metcalf Award, the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize and the Violet Downey Book Award from IODE Canada. Smucker lived for many years in Waterloo, Ont., but moved to Ohio toward the end of her life. She passed away in 2003.

Introduced by:

kenneth-oppel-70.jpgLawrence Hill is the author of several acclaimed books including the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada and the novels Some Great Thing and Any Known Blood. His most recent novel, The Book of Negroes, was published around the world and won many awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and CBC Radio's Canada Reads. He lives in Hamilton, Ont.


question-mark-70-86.jpgScott McKowen is an illustrator, graphic designer and art director. Born and raised in Michigan, he is currently based in Stratford, Ont., where he operates Punch & Judy Inc., a design studio that creates theatre posters and graphics for performing arts companies. His client roster includes HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House and Marvel Comics. His work is the subject of A Fine Line: Scratchboard Illustrations by Scott McKowen published by Firefly Books in 2009.

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