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Young Adult Fiction Historical

Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush

by (author) Carol Shields & Patrick Crowe

illustrated by Selena Goulding

adapted by Willow Dawson

introduction by Margaret Atwood

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2016
Historical, Historical Fiction, Canada
Recommended Age
13 to 18
Recommended Grade
8 to 12
Recommended Reading age
13 to 18
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2016
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Carol Shields was fascinated by the life and writing of Susanna Moodie. Moodie was a Romantic writer from a celebrated literary family whose life changed forever when she and her husband left England for the backwoods of Canada in 1832. The Moodies, utterly unprepared for their new life, soon found themselves starving in the hostile wilderness of Upper Canada. Susanna began publishing her writing to feed and clothe her growing family. The result was the novel Roughing It in the Bush—an aggravated and acerbic testament to settler life that was praised in England but turned Moodie into a controversial figure in Canada. Two centuries later, Moodie is honored by many as an early feminist and literary pioneer.

Shields' long fascination with Moodie led her to collaborate on a screenplay with Patrick Crowe, which has now found its way to the world as a graphic novel. A talented adaptation by Willow Dawson and emotionally complex illustrations by Selena Goulding bring the words of the controversial and fascinating Susanna Moodie to life through the insightful personality of Carol Shields. Includes a rousing introduction by Margaret Atwood.

About the authors

Carol Shields was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1935 and moved to Canada, at the age of 22, after studying at the University of Exeter in England and the University of Ottawa. She was the author of over 20 books, including plays, poetry, essays, short fiction, novels, a work of criticism on Susanna Moodie, and a biography of Jane Austen. Her 1993 novel The Stone Diaries won the Governor General's Award for Fiction, the American Book Critics' Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. It was also a runner up for the Booker Prize, bringing her an international following. Larry's Party (also available from BTC Audiobooks) won England's Orange Prize, given to the best book by a woman writer in the English-speaking world. Carol Shields died in July 2003 in Victoria after a long struggle with cancer.

Carol Shields' profile page

Patrick Crowe is a Toronto-based producer, writer, game designer, and filmmaker. He has worked for the National Film Board and the Ontario Media Development Corporation and as a producer for the CBC. He is the co-founder and president of Xenophile Media, a two-time Emmy award-winning production company renowned for its work in content and technology, including the interactive documentary Inside Hana's Suitcase.

Patrick Crowe's profile page

Selena Goulding is a Canadian illustrator and comic book artist from Vancouver Island currently living in Toronto. A graduate from the Sequential Arts Program at Toronto's Max the Mutt Animation School, she is best known for her work on young adult indie comics such as Cobble Hill, publishing with 215 Ink. This is her first full-length graphic novel, and she is currently working on a contribution for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls Anthology.

Selena Goulding's profile page

Award winning author and illustrator Willow Dawson’s books include Ghost Limb, Hyena In Petticoats, The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea with Helaine Becker, Lila and Ecco’s Do-It-Yourself Comics Club, No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes, and the upcoming The Wolf-Birds. Her books have been supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Willow Dawson also teaches Creating Comics and Graphic Novels at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She lives in Toronto.

Willow Dawson's profile page

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.
Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.
Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. 

Margaret Atwood's profile page


  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens - Starred Selection - Fall 2016

Editorial Reviews

Goulding’s expressive artwork is a perfect complement for the brief, clear text that communicates the facts of Moodie’s life in Upper Canada. With a beautifully-crafted introduction by another Canadian icon, Margaret Atwood, Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush is sure to inspire readers to discover Susanna Moodie’s own writing and to learn more about a fascinating historical figure.

National Reading Campaign

It's a marvellously strange experience to see this time and setting in a graphic novel and in Susanna Moodie's own words... kids 10 and up would be fascinated by this glimpse of the beginnings of Canada.

CBC's The Next Chapter

A fascinating glimpse into ground-level Canadian history as well as the life story of a courageous and principled woman, Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush is highly recommended for teen and adult readers, as well as public library graphic novel collections.

Midwest Book Review

...certainly one of the best graphic novels I have read. It will serve as a wonderful introduction to Susanna Moodie.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

This graphic novel adaptation of her memoir is a perfect conduit for introducing Moodie’s book to readers in Grade 8 and above.... Budding writers will no doubt find inspiration in this tale of a pioneer woman and author. With the publication of this graphic novel, a new generation can be introduced to this classic tale of one woman’s determination and courage.

Professionally Speaking

Goulding’s all-colour artwork is particularly striking, making this amazing story all the more real. From black flies and cougars to fire and flood, Susannah battled all the hazards of her environment and even found time to write about it.

Winnipeg Free Press

This graphic novel features the most devastating and poignant moments from Moodie's writings to portray the life of one of Canada's first best-selling authors. A most compelling read with wonderful illustrations this bring's pioneering life to drastic reality.

It's All Comic to Me: Blog

Stories don’t get more Canadian than this, and it’s a story that’s familiar to so many. But this is a new way of telling it — a graphic novel version of English settler Susanna Moore’s guide to life in what’s now Peterborough, Ont. ... as Margaret Atwood explains in this volume’s introduction, its real value is in its accessibility. ... It can be challenging to tune into the prose style of the 1830s, and a graphic novel is more user-friendly. This one works well, with a fresh, clear style that keeps it good and readable.

The Toronto Star

Patrick Crowe and the late Carol Shields both had long connections with Moodie ... In this graphic novel, the pair have smoothed the rough edges from Moodie’s story, without losing any of its impact. This is no whitewashing of history; in the graphic novel, a despairing Moodie is often shown regretting her decisions, and the harsh frontier life is shown with all its hardships. ... Selena Goulding’s art is clean and efficient, perfect for telling the tale visually without distracting from it. With an introduction by Margaret Atwood, author of the poem sequence The Journals of Susanna Moodie, this graphic novel illuminates the figure of Susanna Moodie by shining a wider, brighter light on her story without losing the essence of what made Moodie’s original accounts so compelling.

Foreword Reviews

This graphic novel provides a compelling account of life as a pioneer woman in 19th-century Canada, showing the tragedies and the joys, as well as the incredible culture shock, experienced by those who were used to a different way of life. The artwork is detailed and expressive, with color palettes changing to accurately represent the mood of each scene.

School Library Journal

As Atwood points out in her introduction, this novel, and graphic novel adaptations in general, are a great way for younger or less proficient readers to be introduced to the original works and bridge gaps in understanding... Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush would be a excellent addition to high school social studies classrooms.

Resource Links

The images are lavish, and on many pages, they tell the story on their own, with no dialogue needed to fill in any blanks.

subTerrain Magazine

The experience told again by acclaimed writer Carol Shields as a graphic novel to access a new audience.

City Parent

Almost two centuries after it appeared in its original form, Roughing It in the Bush provides a timely and haunting reminder that Canada still depends on adapting to, and sharing, a challenging environment.


... Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush is a brilliant story of fortitude and resolution that exposes the scars and charms of a life lived and a country born.

CanLit for Little Canadians

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