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Stereotyping? Moi?

Books That Reflect Our Racial and Ethnic Diversity

By Philip Harber

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

Look again at the cartoons of Herge and at Barbar en voyage. Philip Harber evaluates current materials in French and provides an annotated bibliography of recommended Canadian titles for multicultural and anti-racist education.

Look again at the cartoons of Herge and at Barbar en voyage. Philip Harber evaluates current materials in French and provides an annotated bibliography of recommended Canadian titles for multicultural and anti-racist education.

My theme is the search for Canadian materials for a multicultural community that satisfy the need to support an anti-racist curriculum in the French Immersion school. Many, though apparently not all, regions of the country require school boards to provide school libraries and classrooms with materials that represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the community they serve. Some try to supply appropriate materials in English or French, while others also do so in heritage languages or bilingual format (English or French and a third language). Some see reading as a two-way street, by which English or French speakers learn about the newcomers' cultures, while the latter learn about the Canadian culture, in their own tongue.

More positively, some boards are willing to try to change the thinking of those of us who run school libraries, encouraging us to think again about our own favourite titles from the viewpoint of these new readers. This will lead to weeding the present collections and eliminating, for example, the old version of Les cinq freres chinois with its stereotypical illustrations by Kurt Wiese and replacing it with another version.

On the negative side, this kind of action may be interpreted by some librarians as censorship, or, at the very least, interference with their informed professional choice of materials. After all, they say, generations of children are supposed to have enjoyed The Five Chinese Brothers or Little Black Sambo. However, those children were probably not black, Indian, Chinese or Vietnamese; if they were, they most decidedly did not enjoy those books!

In the field of French children's literature, the late cartoonist Herge was frequently guilty of ridiculing Africans and other races, as might be expected from a Belgian in the days of colonial empire (see, for example, Tintin au Congo). There is no excuse, however, for reprinting such offensive pictures in a new English-French children's dictionary (sold in Canada) from Harrap, a British publishing house of repute which ought to be more sensitive to such issues, considering the ethnic make-up of Britain and France today.

Even the classic Babar en voyage by Laurent de Brunhoff contained the same kind of caricatures of Africans until it was revised and the offending pages removed. All publishers are not deaf to complaints, and authors do rewrite passages after receiving objections (e.g., Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Travers' Mary Poppins).

How does all this affect Canadian materials in our collections?

There is already a certain difficulty in finding quality multicultural materials in French at the levels at which our students read. Having multicultural materials is not enough if the curriculum perpetuates the attitudes and stereotypes, biases and prejudices which we wish to eliminate. Canadian materials in French which support an antiracist curriculum are not easy to find; we are looking for books like Pierre Perret's Lily or Pili Mandelbaum's Noir comme le cafe', blanc comme la lune, both of which are recent picture-book publications from France, the first about black awareness and immigrants, the second about race and young children.

An ideal list should also deal with native stereotypes in Canada, blacks in Canada, the Chinese immigrant labour force in Canada, the prison camps for Japanese Canadians in World War II, and so on, but Canadian publications in French that address these concerns are not yet available. I therefore offer the following annotated bibliography of recent titles, which may serve to update Canadian school library collections in this important area.


Claire Bishop Huchet. Les cinq freres chinois. Paris: L'é des loisirs. (Lutin poche)

Pierre Perret. Lily. Paris: Nathan, 1989.

Pili Mandelbaum. Noir comme le cafe, blanc comme la lune. Paris: L'é des loisirs, 1989. (Pastel)

The following bibliography of Canadian materials is suggested for teaching anti-racism and multiculturalism, and for inclusion in school libraries. Most of the titles are more suitable for French Immersion students or francophones than for Core French classes.

Aska, Warabe. Who Hides in the Park?/ Les mysteres du parc. Montréal: Tundra Books/Livres Toundra,1986. 35p.

This is High Park in Toronto, seen from a multicultural point of view by a talented Japanese artist. Kindergarten to Grade 3

Cailloux, Andre. Tombe des etoiles dans Francois et l'oiseau du Bresil. Montréal: Lemeac, 1977. 151p. (Theatre pour enfants)

Miraflor, a young man from Mali suddenly appears in the home of the astronomer M. Plume; this fantastic play for the very young teaches something about la francophonie, but note that le Nigeria is not francophone, as the play suggests. Kindergarten to Grade 3

Carrier, Roch. Les enfantes de la planete. Montréal: Editions Paulines, 1989. 65p. (Lectures-VIP)

Short stories about children all over the world; particularly striking is the one about a young Latin American street dweller. Grades 11 and up

Clark, Joan. La main de Robin Squires. Traduit par Claude Aubry. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre,1984. 179p. (Collection des deux solitudes, jeunesse)

An adventure story about the pirate treasure of Oak Island, in which a Micmac boy plays an important role. Grades 7 and up

Corriveau, Monique. Le Wapiti. Saint Laurent: Fides, 1978. 175p. (Collection des Mille Illes)

A historical novel about a young man who is adopted by a native band, loosely based on real Algonkians. Grades 11 and up

Cote, Denis. Les prisonniers du zoo. illustré par Stephane Poulin. Montréal: La Courte Échelle, 1988. 94p. (Roman-jeunesse)

A junior science-fiction novel in which the chimpanzees in the zoo are rendered "human" by an evil scientist; the young heroes (one black) help them to escape from their cages. Grades 4 to 6

Daveluy, Paule. Un coq, un mur, deux garcons. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre, 1983. 104p.

Set in Barbados, this novel illustrates the problems of cultural conflict; the young Barbadian boy learns that the opportunity of going to Canada offered by a family of tourists is not the way to solve all his problems. Grades 7 to 10

French, Alice. Je m'appelle Masak. Traduit par Michelle Robinson. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre/Cercle du livre de France,1979. 134p. (Collection des deux solitudes)

An Inuit woman describes her life, in particular, contact with other Canadians in the South. Grades 11 and up

German, Tony. D'une race a part. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre, 1988. 272p.

The story of the young sang-mele Duncan Cameron in the nineteenth century, set against the background of the fur trade and the voyageurs. Grades 7 and up

Houston, James. Les casse-cou de la riviere Koksoak. Traduit par Claude Aubry. Saint Laurent: Fides, 1984. 165p. (Collection des Mille Illes)

Houston, James. Matt et Kayak: une aventure du Grand Nord. Paris: Stock, 1980/Livres de poche, 1986. 188p. (Jeunesse)

Houston, James. Le passage des loops. Paris: Flammarion, 1980. 114p. (Castor poche)

Houston, James. Akavak. Paris: Flammarion, 1980. 152p. (Castor poche)

These adventures in the North are the work of an artist and writer who lived there and is recognized as an expert on the Inuit. Grades 7 to 10

Hughes, Monica. Alerte du plateau 10. Saint-Laurent: Lidec, 1978. 175p. (Travelling sur le futur)

The problems of being different, of being a person from a minority-- in this case, born on the moon--form the theme of this sciencefiction novel for Intermediate readers. Grades 7 to 10

Kurelek, William. Noels nordiques. Saint-Laurent: Fides, 1979.

A prairie boy dreams of Christmas, in a series of naive paintings; note numbers 1, 3 and 4 (the holy family in terms of native people) and 15 (the holy family as blacks). For all.

Lamoureux, Henri. Le fils du sorcier. Montréal: Editions Paulines, 1982. 138p.(Jeunesse-Pop)

A science-fiction adventure set in the Gaspé in which native people are involved; the linking of people of the Carcajou with the ancient Greeks should lead to a discussion of the true origins of Canada's aboriginal population. Grades 7 and up

Landry, Louis. Glauscab, createur du monde. Montréal: Editions Paulines, 1981. 104p. (Jeunesse-Pop, 41)

Landry, Louis. Glauscab, le protecteur. Montréal: Editions Paulines, 1981. 112p. (Jeunesse-Pop, 42)

Native legends of Glooskap and the creation of the world re-told for young people. Grades 7 and up

Lunn, Janet. Une ombre dans la baie. Traduit par Paule Daveluy. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre, 1989. 228p. (Collection des deux solitudes, jeunesse)

Mary Urquhart, an immigrant to Canada in the times of the pioneers, meets Owena, the young Indian woman who has healing powers as does Mary. Grades 7 and up

Mackay, Claire. Le programme Minerve. Traduit par Marie-Andree Clermont. Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre, 1987. 195p. (Collection des deux solitudes, jeunesse)

The heroine of this school mystery story is black, a girl and involved in science and computer studies. Grades 7 to 10.

Major, Henriette. Ukaliq au pews des affaires perdues. Paris: Sorbier, 1983. 28p. (Quelle histoire!)

An amusing tale for beginning readers, with echoes of Inuit myths. Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Martel, Suzanne. Menfou Carcajou. v. 1: Ville-Marie. v. 2: La baie du Nord. Montréal: Lemeac, 1980. (Roman quebecois, 4445)

The historically based saga of a young coureur de bois adopted by native people in New France in the days of Le Moyne d'lberville. Grades 11 and up

Martel, Suzanne. Surréal 3000. Saint-Lambert: Heritage, 1980. 159p. (Galaxie)

A roman d'anticipation in which the distrust and cultural differences between the underground city dwellers and the so-called primitives outside are only overcome by the young hero who first visits the upper world. Grades 4 to l0.

Metayer, Maurice. Contes de mon igloo. illustré par Agnes Nanogak. Paris: Livre de Poche,1973. 156p. Jeunesse, 70)

A series of Inuit tales--fables, legends and myths--collected by a priest who lived in a Canadian Inuit community. Grades 7 and up

Noel, Michel, Roselyne Boulard, and Joanne Ouellet. La malediction de Tchekapesh: theatre. Outremont: VLB Editeur, 1986. 114p.

By the author of Les Papinachois (a series of Montagnais tales, published by Hurtubise HMH, 1981), this is a play with a theme taken from native mythology and is suitable for Junior Immersion students. Grades 4 to 6

Palud-Pelletier, Noelie. Louis, fits des prairies. Saint-Boniface: Editions des Plaines, 1984. 57p.

This little illustrated book describes the youth of Louis Riel with many details of Metis life of the time. Grades 4 to lO

Poulin, Stephane. As-tu vu Josephine? Montréal: Tundra Books/Livres Toundra, 1986.

A picture-book set in multicultural Montréal. Kindergarten to Grade 3

Poulin, Stephane. Peux-tu attraper Josephine? Montréal: Tundra Books/ Livres Toundra, 1987.

A picture-book set in a Montréal school with a black principal. Kindergarten to Grade 3

Pratte, Francois. Le secret d'Awa. Montréal: La Courte Échelle, 1988. 62p. (Collection Romans; serie Premier

roman) Pratte, Franc,ois. Awa dans le de'sert. Montréal: La Courte Échelle, 1989. 62p.

Pratte, Francois. L'armee rose d'Awa. Montréal: La Courte Échelle, 1990. 59p.

Easy novels for Junior readers about a black character, the first a journey to Africa, the second and third with an environmental and ecological message. Grades 4 to 6.

Smucker, Barbara. Les chemins secrets de la liberty Montréal: Pierre Tisseyre, 1978. 161p. (Collectionsdesdeux solitudes, jeunesse)

A gripping novel about the underground railway to Canada by which slaves in the nineteenth century escaped to freedom. Grades 7 and up

Theriault, Yves. Kuanuten, vent d'est. Montréal: Editions Paulines, 1981. 123p. aeunesse-popS 43)

A young adult novel about the generation gap, in this case between a fifteen-year-old Metis from Montréal and his Montagnais grandfather in Ungava. Grades 7 to 10

Warnant-Cote, Marie-Andree. Les tours de Maitre Lapin. Saint-Lambert: Heritage, 1976. 126p. (Pour lire avec toi)

Simple re-telling for Junior students of native tales of the trickster Rabbit. Grades 4 to 6

Philip Harber is a French-language library consultant with the aboard of Education for the City of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario.

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