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Book Reviews

The Kids Book of Canada

by Barbara Greenwood, Jock MacRae, illus.

Here, right on the heels of Canada’s 130th birthday, is a book crammed full of facts, figures, and funny things about the true north strong and free. Aimed at kids who are researching school projects (or who are just plain interested in this country), the book looks at the nation as a whole as well as each province and territory.

Each section covers four pages: the first two pages give a general overview of the region under discussion as well as “quick facts” (population, size, major cities, main industries, etc.); a description of the region’s motto, coat of arms, flag, flower, etc.; and a summary of the animals, geographical features, agriculture, etc., of the region. (This information is current: the Prince Edward Island section notes that in 1997, a bridge called the Fixed Link was opened, replacing ferry service.)

The second two pages contain short paragraphs about significant people, places, and events (e.g., the British Columbia section profiles Terry Fox, a restored gold rush town, and the manufacturing of the first roll of newsprint in 1912, plus six other items). The rest of this two-page spread gives highlights of the region’s history, including a profile of aboriginal peoples and important dates (e.g., for Quebec, Jacques Cartier’s arrival in 1534, the creation of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in 1791, the Patriote Rebellion in 1837, and more). The spread ends with a sentence about what is happening today.

Author Barbara Greenwood, whose meticulously researched book A Pioneer Story won several awards, has put together a treasure trove of information for young readers. As well as the things one would expect from a book like this, she has thrown in stuff that will have special interest for kids: the development of the first Canadian chocolate bar, in 1910; mentions of children’s authors/illustrators Ted Harrison, Michael Kusugak, and Kevin Major; and the home of the world’s first zipper. Although the book is bursting with facts, the layout allows readers to focus on one thing at a time. Jock MacRae’s fine, detailed artwork, which depicts scenes, animals, and people from past and present, adds richness and depth to the text. The balance between text and art makes the book very inviting and pleasing to the eye.

The book ends with a glossary of 17 terms (e.g., Confederation, glacier, tipi); I wish there were also an index to help guide kids to where they want to go. A couple of minor errors that jumped out at me (the inventor of basketball is James Naismith, not John; Anne Murray’s first name is spelled wrong) do not take away from the overall quality of the book. The Kids Book of Canada may give kids all they need for their school project, but it will also give them a sense of this place we call home: its people, its history, its richness, and its diversity. In that light, this book is only the beginning of their learning.