CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Editor-in-chief, James Marsh.
Edmonton, AB: Hurtig Publishers, 1990.
1,960pp in 5 vols., cloth, $189.95.
ISBN 0-88830-334-3. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Canada-Dictionaries, Juvenile.
Canada-Encyclopedias, Juvenile.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up

Reviewed by P.J. Hammed.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

Generally, in the past, when a Canadian reference work was published for the first time the reaction was It's about time! With the publication of the Junior Encyclopedia of Canada we are no longer catching up; we are now leading the pack. Notwithstanding the media hype that announced its publication, this is an outstanding reference work; the claims made for it are generally warranted.

"The text of the Junior Encyclopedia of Canada is entirely new," claims the promotional material accompanying the review copy. This is no watered-down version of an adult forerunner; the difference between this and the earlier Canadian Encyclopedia (2nd ed., Hurtig Publishers, 1988) is obvious immediately from the beautiful cover illustration. The larger print, the many colour illustrations, and the emphasis on children's points of view-the latter most clearly exhibited by the many reference to children's literature and children's books-identify this work as unique.

The claim that the Junior Encyclopedia of Canada is clearly written is supported by claims of controlled vocabulary, readability testing and classroom validating. Although this concept is valid, one must not read one's own interpretations into it. The reading levels are uneven, ranging in reading levels from grade 6 to grade 10. This is no beginner's encyclopedia. Some consistency is achieved by using a pyramid style by which initial explanation and definition are written in a relatively simple language; thus, the younger reader can gain some understanding even though he/she may not be able to comprehend the more complex explanation that follows.

There is a format problem, which should be mentioned here. Although subject entries are clearly marked by a red square and are printed in bold face, they are printed with only initial capitals; within articles, however, main sub-headings are centred, appear in full capitals and are also in bold face. Until he/she becomes fully familiar with the work, the young reader will find this confusing.

Over four thousand subject-articles dealing with Canadian issues, history, geography, biography and the environment certainly make this the most comprehensive treatment of Canadian subjects for young people. The inclusion of side bars in the margins add, where relevant, career information, mini-biographies, maps, time lines, quotations, definitions and statistics. A detailed index in volume 5, in addition to alphabetical arrangement of the main texts, provides further assistance to the reader in locating information. Further, each subject-article concludes with references to related articles in this encyclopedia and additional suggested readings in other works; sometimes addresses from which additional current information can be obtained are also included.

From the school/curricular point of view this publication offers a wide array of informative and interesting facts about Canada. The opportunity for broad curricular references and varying opportunities for learning about Canada are now significantly expanded for both student and teacher.

The inclusion, as previously noted, of addresses for sources of further and more current information will help somewhat in providing for the immediate future. What is not mentioned in any of the publisher's promotional material is a plan for future revision. Because this is a first and unique publication, the publisher is probably most concerned about initial sales. It would be most reassuring to parents, teachers and librarians, however, to know that at some designated time in the future a revision is planned, or, if the venture is successful, a process of continuous revision would be instituted immediately.

For too long the Canadian education scene has been restricted to information sources that originate in other places and interpret information with other eyes; this encyclopedia will do much to change that situation significantly.

P.J. Hammed University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK.
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