Kébek the beaver is a resourceful type with a big heart who really wants to help his little Indian friend, Nitou, in the French children’s book La rivière sans retour. But in Chapter 4, as Nitou’s canoe is swept away in the rapids, young readers learn that Kébek also swears like a sailor.
“Taberna-a-a-cle!” the beaver hollers, uttering a swear word that in Quebec is roughly as offensive as the f-word in English. The author of the book aimed at 6- and 7-year-olds helpfully includes a footnote explaining that tabernacle is a “Québécois word indicating surprise.”
Surprise would be an understatement to describe the reaction of Caroline Montreuil when she came across the passage while reading the book recently to her 6-year-old son Justin at bedtime. She had borrowed it from the municipal library in the suburb of Sainte-Julie on Montreal’s South Shore.
“Obviously, I didn’t say ‘tabernacle’ to…
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