The Kids Book of Canadian Prime Ministers

by Pat Hancock, John Mantha,
32 pages,
ISBN: 1550744739

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Children`s Books
by Jeanette Clark

Who says Canadian history is stuffy? In this large-format book, our PMs only look like stuffed shirts. Perhaps it's the illustrator's courtroom experience. He has focused, with interesting results, on the sartorial side of our leaders' lives. He admits to a fondness for drawing John A. Macdonald because of his ill-fitting clothes. In his attempt to render Pierre Trudeau's casual and sometimes insouciant manner, John Mantha has turned a debonair politician into a perky garden gnome.

That said, no one in Canada who has a child between the ages of eight and twelve should be without this book. It's a whole lot more fun to look things up here than in an encyclopaedia. Its pages are lively and colourful, with just the kind of information kids need for school projects that should have been handed in two days ago. This is a book that mothers and fathers-whoever does the homework-can actually enjoy, as they leaf through, looking for the right-size chunk to pass on to their waiting young.

The information is well-chosen for this age group, and is presented in a way that makes these characters accessible and, above all, human. The opening paragraph of each chapter, written in clear, direct language, describes some youthful aspect of the life in question, so that young readers can learn what propelled these men and woman into public life. There follows a not too wordy account of the political context of each leader's accession to power, a brief survey of his or her accomplishments while in office, and some mention (where appropriate) of the relevance to us today of decisions made however many years ago. Studded throughout the book are some excellent quotations from or about the prime ministers, and special sections featuring important events. The October Crisis and the Second World War with its conscription conflict are among the highlights; opposing points of view are offered here, as they are throughout; the author was determined to avoid bias.

There is an index and a time line with an accompanying list of events. You can't help noticing that there is absolutely nothing on that list between 1920 and 1929, when the Great Depression began. What? Nothing of any note happened in Canada for almost ten years? Didn't Mackenzie King talk to his mother? 

Jeanette Clark is a teacher-librarian who takes special delight in bringing together young people and books that will suit them. She herself was raised on a diet of Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, and School Girl Comics.


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