Volume 11 Number 2.
Following the same format as the other books in this Early Settler Life series, this too is printed in sepia on cream pages 8½ x 11 inches in size, giving it a mellow, old-fashioned look in keeping with its subject. Section headings are large and in royal blue. The charm of this series is in its many pictures that succeed in recreating for the reader scenes from the past. At the back of the book, a long list of acknowledgements attests to the research and reproduction undertaken for this volume. Unfortunately, the sources of the individual pictures are not listed; so no illustration can be identified or its location confirmed. Indeed, it is often not clear as to whether it is an authentic reproduction from an early work or whether it is a modem re-enactment. This is, no doubt, a strategy to provide material suitable to both the Canadian and the American experience, but it is frustrating to the adult reader. Students, however, may not notice, but this lack does deprive them of one more mechanism to use in making judgments about research materials.
The text is easy to read—at about a grade 4 level—but does not flow well. Because of the large preponderance of short sentences that start with the subject, a jerky, unnatural style is developed. This is a disservice to the children, who can handle more interesting language patterns. An example of this, from page 39, follows: "Mr. Taylor did not know what to do. He panicked. He ran from the room. The children shouted. .."
Approximately ninety-two pictures help the reader to absorb the real flavour of the past. Anyone who remembers the days of the one-room school will recognize the abacus, the slate, the wood fire, the early readers that always taught a moral as well as a skill, and the stress on penmanship. Games are brought back to mind: Gossip, Clap or Hiss, See-saw, Snap-the-Whip, Fox and Geese, and the spelling match. Poems are plentiful, usually teaching a truth or pointing out a moral. One favourite is "Do Your Best." One verse from this goes "Do your best, your very best/And do it every day/Little boys and little girls/That is the wisest way."
Topics covered include early schools, community attitude to education, school supplies, study topics, teachers, conduct (of both teachers and pupils!) and the education of girls. So many, in just sixty-four pages, result in sketchy coverage of these but basic information is there. A full page two-column table of contents, an extensive glossary, and an index add to the usefulness of the book.
Nostalgia buffs will browse through this with pleasure. Young researchers in a school library will find this valuable material for a topic on pioneer days. Recommended.
Maureen Pammett, Peterborough County Board of Education, Peterborough, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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