________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009


G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet.

Larry Verstraete. Illustrated by Brian Lund.
Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press (Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn & Co.), 2009.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-58536-364-3.

Subject Heading:
Manitoba-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4



Our watery past is everywhere
In ridges, dunes, and fossil traces.
A stands for the Ancient Shores
that lie beneath our places.


Larry Verstraete is a Manitoba author whose nonfiction books for young people have won readers' choice awards in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. His experience as a teacher and his love of science are evident in this fifth and latest alphabet book based on a Canadian province and published by Sleeping Bear Press. G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet is chock full of fascinating geological, biological, historical and cultural information. Long-time residents of Manitoba will be pleased with the author's choices, some of which are surprising, but delightful nonetheless. Who knew that the E in E. Cora Hind stood for Ella? Or that a vicious lizard-like reptile known as the mosasaur once swam around in Lake Agassiz? Or that the biggest pumpkin sculpture ever is in Roland?

     As well as including many of Manitoba's well-known sights (the beluga whales, the polar bears, the prairie crocuses, the big lakes, the garter snakes at Narcisse and, of course, our Golden Boy atop the legislative building) the author has branched out into lesser known provincial wonders:

I stands for northern Ice Roads
which are an amazing thing——
appearing like magic in winter
disappearing again in spring.

     For the letter V, Verstraete has chosen to tell the stories of the three heroes of World War I who were honoured when the street they lived on was renamed Valour Road.

internal art      The Exchange District makes it into the alphabet book with a capsule history of the historic area appearing in the text beside the illustration. For the letter Y, the author reminds readers of the old wooden York boat which ruled the waterways between the mid 1700's and the late 1800's. Finally, what turns up for Z but the 48 kilometre "Z" dike slapped together and topped with derelict vehicles to protect the southern part of the city of Winnipeg from the 1997 Flood of the Century! (Now who but this writer could come up with something other than the zoo or a zebra therein?)

      Each letter is represented by a four line rhyming couplet which is printed in black or white and stands out clearly on the illustrated page. The simple verses will appeal to younger listeners while the nuggets of information down the side of each page will attract the attention and interest of older readers.

      Brian Lund's love of nature and the outdoors is evident in his illustrations. His paintings capture the many moods of Manitoba, in particular its huge and ever-changing skies. He is able to create the colours of every season and landscape in a softly muted style. Lund's more impressionistic style, although very different from the high realism of picture books like A Prairie Alphabet, is equally appealing and a perfect complement to the author's text.

      G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet is a must-have for school libraries from elementary through junior to senior high. Manitobans, whether native or transplanted, living here or elsewhere, should feel a sense of pride as they turn the pages of this book.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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