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Christy MacKinnon
Wreck Cove (N.S.), Breton Books, 1993. 42pp cloth, $17.95
ISBN 1895415-26-8. Distributed by Breton Books, Wreck Cove, N.S. BOC lHO. CIP

Subject Headings:
MacKinnon, Christy, 1889-1981-Juvenile literature.
Children, Deaf-Nova Scotia-Cape Breton Island-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9

Reviewed by Norma Charles

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Silent Observer is the autobiography of a woman who grew up on Cape Breton Island. In 1891, when she was two, Christy MacKinnon became deaf as a result of a siege of whooping cough. She became a careful "silent observer" of her world and recorded her memories in diaries and paintings, which were discovered only after her death.

Through these recordings we are offered an entertaining glimpse into the life of an active child growing up in a rural setting at the turn of the century. We see details of how family farm life actually was, recorded by a reporter who was actually there. We witness many adventures such as a small child being rescued from a well, being plucked up from under the trampling hooves of a herd of cows, and showing off her new red dress to an angry bull. Although Christy was deaf, that is not the story. Instead, this is the story of a young girl growing up in an atmosphere of love and acceptance and of the development of courage and, finally, independence.

Encouraged by her father, the local school master, Christy learned very young to draw on her slate. At the age of eleven she was sent to the Halifax School for the Deaf, from which she graduated in 1908. She went on to study art at the Victoria School of Arts in Nova Scotia and, later, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The drawings and writing in this book preserve an insight into a time for which we have little accessible record. Since it is a real child's actual experiences, told and illustrated in an entertaining manner, young readers of today will have no difficulty empathizing with the young Christy MacKinnon.

This book will be a welcome addition to our slim shelf of Canadian early pioneer stories. As well it will provide readers, young and older, with an entertaining read.


Norma Charles is a teacher-librarian at Henderson Annex in Vancouver, British Columbia
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