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Pictou town

by Teresa MacKenzie

Combining a children’s picture book, a souvenir of local history, and an architectural tribute is an ambitious undertaking, but Pictou town, written and illustrated by Teresa MacKenzie, rises to the challenge. MacKenzie’s lively illustrations and text bring the buildings of this 150-year-old Nova Scotia town to life as characters who tell the settlement’s history in lilting verse. The railway station, the post office, the customs house, and various homes, inns, and commercial establishments each relate what they have seen and how they have functioned in the living heritage of their community.

Children will be delighted by the fanciful concept of buildings telling their own history and by MacKenzie’s playful illustrations. The curving lines of the houses seem to dance across the pages, accompanied by the catchy rhythm of the simple verses. The architectural details of stonework, windows, towers, and chimneys are rendered in loving detail in MacKenzie’s exquisite watercolours.

As well as a celebration of local architecture, Pictou town is designed as a souvenir book to honour two milestones: the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Hector, a ship that brought Scottish settlers to the area in 1773, and the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the town in 1873. A well-researched afterword by Laurie Stanley-Blackwell provides historical context, with a respectful appreciation of the Mi’kmaq peoples who inhabited the area for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived, and a thoughtful history of Pictou’s development as a town, with an overview of the changing architectural styles that marked its progress.

There is a detailed list of all the featured buildings at the end of the book, but the illustrations themselves are not identified. It is awkward to keep flipping back and forth to find out which building is which, especially when reading the afterword. And although evocative and fun, the verse occasionally misses the mark with metre and rhyme, and could have been elevated by more careful attention to these essential elements. 

Despite these minor shortcomings, this is a charming book that will be treasured by those with a connection to Pictou, whether visitors or inhabitants, and by those who love old buildings and the history they hold. Pictou town has a creative approach to celebrating architectural heritage that should inspire readers of all ages to look at buildings in a new light, with an eye to both form and function.


Reviewer: Charis Cotter

Publisher: The Pictou Bee Press


Price: $15.99

Page Count: 40 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-0-92029-702-5

Released: February

Issue Date: August 2023

Categories: Kids’ Books, Picture Books

Age Range: 4–6