STEEL ACROSS THE PLAINS
Volume 21 Number 5
Pierre Berton's well-known two-volume history of the CPR (The National Dream and The Last Spike, 1970, 1971) (both McClelland & Stewart) details one of the major events that shaped Canada. In Steel across the Plains, Berton retells for young readers the story of the building of the prairie section of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The book tells an exciting story in a very interesting way that should keep the interest of students in upper elementary and junior high school. It is well illustrated with black-and-white drawings and maps. It has a complete index but no footnotes or bibliography.
As Berton says by way of introduction, "The events in this book actually happened ... and there is archival evidence for every story ... [and] remark made in this book." This evidence is exhaustively cited in The Last Spike, which could be consulted by readers who wish more information.
The book introduces William Van Home, the larger-than-life chairman of the CPR who was in charge of construction. It also vividly describes how construction was carried out and how settlement followed the rails, and devotes one chapter to the railway's effect on the Plains native people.
Irene Gordon is a teacher-librarian at Westdale Junior High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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