What a Journey! by Cheryl Cels: A Canadian History Adventure

Myself (Angela Gentile, left)and Cheryl Cels (right) holding her book, What a Journey! (2022)

It’s an amazing feat to publish your first book at age 76! I am very proud of my friend, Cheryl Cels, who has self-published her first children’s book which took her four years to complete. It stars her two grandchildren, Jake and Hudson, and takes them on a historical Canadian time-travel adventure.

What a Journey! is a work of historical fiction. The story is about two young teen siblings who fall into the river, magically taking them back to the early days of the Red River Settlement in Manitoba, around the year 1815. Their lives are saved over and over again by Chief Peguis and his family and the Anishinaabe people who are very hospitable and supportive.

What a Journey! is a paperback book with 102 pages.
What a Journey! back cover.

The history presented in the book has been well-researched and Cheryl states the facts are accurate. The information is based on published accounts of the early days of the Red River Settlement. Cheryl adds, “It’s not a boring story though, because it’s about two fun-loving young teens who the readers like to learn about as they follow them on their amazing journey.”

Cheryl states this easy-to-read book is very timely. People are opening their minds and their hearts to Indigenous people – wanting to know more about what they battled through. What a Journey! provides an opportunity for understanding with lots of good information. The photos and illustrations help bring the story to life.

Cheryl started writing her book in 2018. She took a class at McNally Robinson to learn how to write children’s books. She then was inspired by her two grandchildren, Jake and Hudson, who are the main characters. In real life, they currently live beside “The Passage” in Charleswood (a neighbourhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba) which is referred to in the book.

I was at “The Passage” and it was full of life.
This young deer at The Passage was very curious about me.

Cheryl ran into some roadblocks in getting her book published. Prior to hiring an editor, she had sent the manuscript to a few publishers, but it was rejected. Cheryl got discouraged and so she put it away. She hadn’t touched it for a long time.

Her breakthrough came when Jamie Maes, a grade five teacher, asked her if she could read the book aloud to her class as part of the social studies curriculum. She found it helped her students learn about the Red River Settlers, the Hudson’s Bay Company, the NorthWest Company, and the Indigenous people who were so kind and helpful to the main characters, Jake and Hudson. Cheryl states, “Jamie Maes got me going again, and that’s when I finished it! If she hadn’t helped and encouraged me, this book would never have happened.”

Phoenix is one of the characters who Cheryl is very proud of.

Cheryl’s hopes are that the book will be widely enjoyed by all ages and she would love to see it used in Manitoba schools. Teacher are encouraged to put more Indigenous content into their classrooms and this book has Anishinaabe language, characters, and truth. It describes how very kind and helpful they were to the settlers.

Joe Cels (left), Cheryl’s husband, contributed many graphics, including the cover art.

Cheryl Cels is a University of Manitoba Social Work graduate, and has lived in Winnipeg most of her life. She has always enjoyed writing and has a strong interest in Canada’s history.

To purchase a copy of this book (for $20), you can contact myself (by using the contact form below) and I will get you connected with Cheryl.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

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