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Notable Canadian Non Fiction

By Ron Jobe

Volume 16 Number 2

An exiting trend in the current literary scene for children and young people is the dramatic improvement in the quality and appeal of information books. Canadian publishers' increased attention to this genre is resulting in the production of many more books of high quality. Indeed, the emergence of some publishers with specialized information lines is proving noteworthy.

Five titles published in 1986 were especially notable: Science Is. . . by Susan Bosak, Foodworks by Carol Gold, Egg-carton Zoo by Rudi Haas and Hans Blohm, Looking at Insects by David Suzuki and Barbara Hehner, and Dear Doctor by Saul Levine and Kathleen Wilcox.

Two of these books prove to have great reader appeal and are exceptionally successful in involving children. Foodworks: An Ontario Science Centre Book* is a browser's delight! Every page is filled with interesting tidbits of information, games quizzes and recipes. Delicious facts about food are shared in a clever motivational scenario. Why does your stomach growl?

Science Is. . . ** looks like a student teacher's lesson outline yet it is one of the unusual success stories in Canadian publishing Originally produced for outdoor camp instructors by the non-profit Youth Science Foundation, the book was 'discovered' by children and their parents on the shelves in book stores and was promoted effectively by personal recommendation. Its success stems from the fact that parent and child undertake co-operative projects together. Although the format, a three-ring binder with detachable lesson outlines, is a curse to librarians, it is easy to use. Remarkably, children do not seem to expect the same level of artistic interpretation and formatting with a binder as they do with books.

Egg-carton Zoo*** is a book of intrigue. Clear photographs demonstrate how to make animals from Styrofoam egg cartons. Each animal is introduced tersely and simply with a series of appealing snippets of information. Frogs waterbirds, pigs, butterflies, turtles, deer, dogs and dinosaurs are featured. The startling composition makes the photographs visually memorable. The book is valuable even if there are no styrofoam egg cartons available in Newfoundland !

Dear Doctor**** has received high praise for its relevance to the teen-age reader. Its matter-of-fact style provides a positive look at a broad selection of serious topics for young people. These topics range from body image concerns such as cold feet blackheads and weight problems,to relationships sex and sexuality. The authors' subtle use of humour and the reassurance that their advice offers make the book a valuable resource in the home, community and school.


The Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada voted Looking at Insects***** the best Canadian information book published in 1986. Written at an easy reading level Looking at Insects demonstrates excellence in scientific writing both in its style and in its clarity. The authors' creative approach to science includes intriguing facts and a broad range of information that interests children of the upper elementary school. Suzuki and Hehner successfully look at the world of nature in a non-preachy manner. Looking at Insects has appeal both as a science book and as a browsing book. Children have been observed outside schools book in hand, just listening to the insects! The format is outstanding, combining a cleverly thought-out structure, precision of illustration, and a variety of approaches.

The quality and diversity of these titles testify to the emergence of a strong interest in information books for children and young people in Canada.

Bosak, Susan V. Science Is. . . illustrated by Anthony Gower. Youth Science Foundation, 1986.

Gold, Carol with Mary and Stef Donev. Foodworks: An Ontario Science Centre Book. Kids Can Press, 1986.

Haas, Rudi and Hans Blohm. Egg-carton Zoo. Oxford,1986.

Levine, Saul and Kathleen Wilcox. Dear Doctor. Kids Can Press,1986.

Suzuki, David with Barbara Hehner. Looking at Insects. Illustrated by R. Tuckerman. Stoddart,1986.

*Reviewed vol. XV/I January 1987 p.22.
**Reviewed vol. XV/2 March 1987 pp.85-86.
***Reviewed vol.XlV/July 1986 p.l77.
**** Reviewed vol. XV/I January 1987 p.25.
*****Reviewed vol. XIV/6 November 1986 p.283.

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1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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