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Building Canada

by Bonnie Shemie

Building Canada is a fascinating introduction to architecture and the forces that influence it. Similar in concept to The Visual Dictionary of Buildings (Eyewitness series), Building Canada is shorter and simpler. It’s also unique because it considers buildings from a Canada-wide and exclusively Canadian perspective.

Bonnie Shemie, author-illustrator of the respected Native Dwelling series, writes and illustrates this book. To emphasize the link between Canada’s history and its buildings, she runs a timeline through the book’s introductory pages. On every page, bright watercolour images of buildings of varying purpose, age, size, height, and grandeur elaborate on information presented in concise, reader-friendly fashion. Black and white drawings provide supplementary architectural detail and frame the book’s helpful glossary (which regrettably omits the explanation of “bargeboard”).

Building Canada demonstrates, as a book about architecture should, a flair for decoration and design, and a commitment to quality. Its front cover thrusts an impressive sampling of buildings at readers. Its back cover bears endorsements from the founding director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the executive director of the Heritage Canada Foundation. Attentive readers may wonder at the book’s unnumbered pages and its timeline’s lack of entries for the years Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia joined Confederation. However, they won’t enjoy the book less for the omissions.

Building Canada will interest older children and adults who enjoy history, art, and learning about the nuts and bolts of things. It’s also a logical progression for the dollhouse crowd and a great source of inspiration for architectural scavenger hunts.