The Big Book of Canada:|
Exploring the Provinces and Territories
by Christopher Moore, illustrated by Bill Slavin
Post Your Opinion
by Trudee Romanek
Did you know that Asian sailors may have visited Canada before western explorers arrived? Or that "dumbledore" (aside from being the name of the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter books) is the Newfoundlander nickname for bumblebee? Christopher Moore's new compendium of all that is Canada is a wealth of fascinating information. Moore deftly represents the incredible diversity of this huge and varied land using a consistent structure that makes this a very user-friendly resource.
The Big Book of Canada explores the country from east to west, with an 18-page chapter for each province or territory along the way. In a short introduction to each, Moore clearly outlines that province's essenceł from its first inhabitants to issues that shape it today. Those few paragraphs provide context for the subsequent two-page sections, which delve into the particulars.
'Landscapes' highlights the terrain and geographical features of the province at hand. 'Moments' provides snapshots of significant events in its history. 'Peoples', 'On the Map' and 'Famous and Infamous' describe the distinct groups of people who live there, specific communities within the region, and important individuals who call, or called, it home. There's even a recipe for a local traditional food. Two more sections focus on employment within the region and system of government, noting major political issues.
Info bites such as population, capital city, official flower, and so on for each province are found on its 'At a Glance' page. The final page for each region gives Moore an opportunity to feature, in depth, something unique to that chunk of Canada. A few present a poem or song that typifies the land or people. Others explain such regional phenomena as the Winnipeg General Strike, the affect of the Chinook winds, the daredevils of Niagara Falls, and inukshuks.
The shameful periods in Canada's history are here too, from the persecution of aboriginal peoples to the darkest moments of the 1970 FLQ October crisis. In all cases, Moore presents the facts without judgement and neither sensationalizes nor trivializes the events.
A 'big book,' even if it does have 256 pages, is still a small vessel for all there is to know about such an expansive and complex country. As Janet Lunn explains in her introduction, the book is not intended to be a comprehensive geography or history Canada but rather "a kind of gazetteer." No doubt Christopher Moore and his editors had to make many difficult choices. Some readers may quibble about unfortunate omissions (neither folksinger Gordon Lightfoot nor the famous Dionne quintuplets are listed in the index, for example) but on the whole Moore's decisions seem logical.
Much of the contents contain enough of a 'story' element to keep readers between the ages of 9 and 12 engaged. Some of the book's more sophisticated topics, while clearly explained, may be more easily tackled by an older child or with an adult's assistance.
The first-rate content is matched by the book's strong visual appeal. Bill Slavin's highly textured style is extremely effective and perfectly suited to the maps that begin each chapter and the landscape scenes scattered throughout. Together with the more than one hundred photos of landmarks and people, the visuals successfully portray the land and those who live on it.
Coloured upper margins for each province or territory let the reader easily locate the divisions between chapters. Teachers will appreciate the six-page index. Librarians will love the list of suggested novels that get to the heart of many distinct localities.
From the first-page photo of the Confederation Conference, 1864, to the Canadian flag on the final page, this book is a tremendously appealing, thorough and easy-to-use resource. While it may not be a book kids choose to curl up with, they will find it an accessible and indispensable reference tool. An absolute must-have for every school library and a book that would be a definite benefit to any classroom or home bookshelf.