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John Orange
Toronto, ECW Press, 1993. 126pp, paper
$14.95, ISBN 1-55022-186-8. (Canadian Biography series).
Distributed by General Distribution Services. CIP

Subject Headings:
Mowat, Farley, 1921- -Biography.
Authors, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up

Reviewed by Ellen Robson

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

It is difficult to write a biography of someone as unusual as Farley Mowat, whose writing includes his life stories and an autobiography. John Orange, a recent acquaintance of Mowat's, selected material from his books, letters, films and interviews and printed only what Mowat agreed to; thus, some incidents are omitted.

Mowat's writing is "subjective non-fiction" and he distinguishes between "fact" and "truth." The general purpose of his work is to educate and reform but his sense of humour adds a great deal of entertainment. Through his controversial works he has examined the concerns of the Arctic and its native inhabitants, Newfoundland, Siberia, the Vikings, the trauma of World War II, whales and other environmental concerns. Orange sums up Mowat as "anti-authoritarian, intensely nationalistic, environmentally aware, and passionately romantic." The title derives from a "squib," which is the fuse used to ignite explosives or witty writing; both meanings are appropriate. Unfortunately, this small book is a dull portrayal of an exciting Canadian. It does direct the reader to Mowat's own works to find out the "truth" of each reference.

The facts are nicely summarized in the five-plus pages of chronology and the three pages of "Works Consulted." The black-and-white photos add little but are interesting. Although Mowat is shown as an outsider, he has not come to life in this book. Orange does show insight into Mowat's themes and thus this book would be useful for independent study units.

Optional purchase.

Ellen Robson is a librarian at Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough, Ontario

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