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A. Y. Jackson.

Moonbean (ON), Penumbra Press, c1982.
unpaged, cloth, slipcased, $26.00.
ISBN 0-920806-37-6.

Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by Lee Thirlwall.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

The Arctic 1927 contains the diaries and sketchbook of A. Y. Jackson who describes a voyage he made to the Canadian arctic. The book is made up of two diaries Jackson kept, one of notes for himself, and a second, more like descriptive travel letters, for friends in Toronto. The bulk of the book, between the two diaries, is a collection of the sketches made during the voyage. It is introduced by Naomi Jackson Graves, who compiled it and who gives technical information about the drawings and the text. A second introduction is by Jackson's travelling companion, Dr. Frederick Banting, and was the introduction to The Far North: A Book of Drawings, which was published the year after the voyage.

Apparently, the reason for the voyage to the arctic was the suggestion by someone critical of the Group of Seven, that they were moving further and further into the northern wilds of Canada and away from what people knew. Jackson's response was, why not go all the way? He and Dr. Banting gained permission to travel on a government icebreaker that supplied remote settlements and RCMP posts on Baffin and Ellesmere Islands and other such areas, still remote to most Canadians fifty years later. Many of the sketches are naturally the sea, ice, rocks, landscapes to be later developed into paintings. As well as the grand drama of the arctic, Jackson is also a good recorder of settlements, local children, botanical specimens, shacks, dogs, boats and all the characters of the Far North. He celebrates them all both in his sketches and his diary entries.

The Arctic 1927 is a portrait of the Canadian arctic before the skidoo and mining companies and a self portrait of a Canadian mythic hero. You share A. Y. Jackson's insights and fresh visions through his notes, drawings, and friendly letters, as he examines the farthest edge of the land he committed his life to celebrating. It is a fine, intimate book presented in small gentle format, much more fitting than shiny coffee-table size.

As to the usefulness in a classroom, that is another problem. Many libraries will have copies of A. Y. Jackson's autobiography, A Painter's Country and The Arctic 1927 illustrates a chapter or two in it. The book may be too much of special interest to too few to be very useful in a high school library, but it is still recommended.

Lee Thirlwall, Cardinal Newman H. S., Scarborough, ON.
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