CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 16 . . . . April 15, 2005
It is as difficult to review the badly written and the blatantly commercial as it is to review the excellent because, in both cases, there is so much to say!!!
This reviewer may not be well informed about the Sikh or the Chinese community in Canada in Canada. Therefore, this reviewer could be described as a learner in this area of Canadian Social Studies. However, this reviewer is very knowledgeable about the Ukrainian and French experiences in Canada. When the Weigl Educational Publishers’ series “Special Canadian Communities” wishes to inform young children about these two venerated cultures and their contribution to Canadian life, the editors should be particularly aware of the depth of understanding and respect for them throughout this country. Particularly for Manitobans, both cultures have found security, influence, acceptance and an opportunity to flourish and contribute to the richness of the fabric of this nation.
Heather C. Hudak and Weigl Educational Publishers have created a template to encompass all cultures, races, ethnicities found in Canada. Into this template, Hudak has pieced each culture without acknowledging its uniqueness, its special history or its struggle for freedom and opportunity! For example:
So are the French-Canadians and their rich history of nearly five centuries on Canadian soil summarized! The remainder of this particular volume is an embarrassment of simplistic information, information contorted to fit into the formulaic template, and outright silliness! (i.e., page 14 shows a group of Radio City (?) dancers performing a chorus line in “military” costume that is to represent the famous cancan!). On page 20, readers are encouraged to go to Yahoo or Google to search for more information on the French-Canadians by typing “tourtiere” and “cancan”!
What terrible writing and editing! What misinformation for youngsters possibly reading and researching about the French-Canadian culture in Canada for the first time!
Ukrainians in Canada fares little better. The photographs of Ukrainian Canadians are archival documents from the Glenbow Archives and do not reflect the captions attached: a) a charming one-room-school or class picture of the 1940’s (?) on page 11 is accompanied by the caption “Many schools and universities across Canada offer classes in Ukrainian language and history” b) a 1950’s family celebrates Ukrainian Christmas.
The photos seem to be deliberately chosen for their dated images for an audience too young to understand historical context.
The reasons for the great Ukrainian migrations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are completely ignored. The plight that these immigrants experienced once they reached the Canadian prairies, the quality of the farmland given to them, the prejudice and inhospitality shown to these new Canadians are also ignored. Therefore, young researchers would naturally assume that Ukrainians in Canada achieved success and happiness the moment they stepped on Canadian soil, i.e., that the immigrant posters were true!
The formula for this series is so obvious that one can move from text to text, page by page, to see how four unique cultures have been “whitewashed” into an over simplistic portrayal of Canada’s multiculturalism. This attempt to “educate” young readers with a formulaic text (and with no imagination, ingenuity or interest!) is an outright waste of time and resources in this twenty-first century of global communication of our cultural diversity, histories and pride.
Photos are almost all in full colour and quite eye-catching. A glossary is provided for each volume, defining specific words pertinent to each book. Each volume also has one map showing the homeland of that volume’s ethnic people. These maps are confusing, poorly researched and/or presented, and accompanied by wording that is formulaic to the point of misinformation! The indices and glossaries are the only unique aspects of this series, itemizing particular aspects of each culture.
The four titles reviewed (the French-, Chinese-, Sikh- and Ukrainian-Canadians) seem to be the first installment of a series.
Dianne Arnott is a teacher-librarian in inner-city Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.