________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005


Great Canadians: Twelve Profiles of Extraordinary People. (Great Canadian Stories).

Angela Murphy.
Edmonton, AB: Folklore Publishing, 2005. 144pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894864-46-8.

Subject Heading:

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ronald J. Hore.

**½ /4



Believing that the quiet of the country might improve Isa's health, he moved the family to Bellevue House, a small villa decorated in a unique and ornate style that caused Macdonald to nickname it the Pekoe Pagoda. Despite the whimsical nickname, Macdonald's life in that house was not a happy one. Their baby son died at the age of 13 months, and even though Isabella gave birth to another son in 1850, she never regained her health. Macdonald hired servants to help in the home and did everything he could to keep his wife healthy. But she continued to decline, spending most of her time in bed or in a wheelchair. For solace, Macdonald turned to the bottle.

Despite his personal hardships and occasional alcoholic lapses, Macdonald continued to do well on the political scene. He acquired a new law partner, which gave him more time to spend on political matters. In 1854, with the Conservatives back in power, Macdonald became attorney general. The following year he met George-Étienne Cartier, a corporate lawyer from Montréal and a moderate conservative. With similar interests and political views, they became close friends.



This slim volume offers 12 profiles of "Extraordinary Canadians" and, in the main, delivers what it promises. The quotation above, from the profile of Sir John A. Macdonald, and a chapter of less than 14 pages, offers an insight into why this man, famous today for drink, took to the bottle. The book, at 144 pages of reasonably large print, makes for easy reading, yet provides a wealth of detail. In the introduction to the book, the author lists the criteria she used in picking the twelve "Great Canadians" covered. "The individuals selected for this volume must (a) have a name that is widely recognized in Canada, and (b) have contributed in a significant and positive way to Canadian culture or life." The introduction, itself, makes for interesting reading as the author wrestles with her reasons for choosing and the common thread that she picked up among these "Greats." Within the introduction, the author also muses on why more men than women were chosen. Perhaps that imbalance might be corrected in a future volume?

     The book certainly includes a wide variety of types of people, such as politicians, environmentalists, writers, sports figures, and includes both men and women. The great Canadians profiled are: Margaret Atwood, Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox, Wayne Gretzky, Sir John A. Macdonald, Nellie McClung, Marshall McLuhan, Emily Murphy, Lester B. Pearson, Louis Riel, David Suzuki, and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. While readers may be familiar with most, if not all, of the choices, there is enough meat in each chapter to provide some detail on these individuals. Most readers should learn something about the person that they did not know before picking up the book. Were you aware that Nellie McLung and Emily Murphy battled to have women declared persons?

     Each chapter begins with an actual quote from the person being profiled. A sample of these include: Tommy Douglas's "Watch out for the little fellow with an idea," - Wayne Gretzky's "Of the shots you don't take, one hundred percent don't go in," - Marshall McLuhan's "You mean my fallacy was all wrong?" These brief comments shed a great deal of light on the individuals who spoke them and fit in well as an introduction to their particular chapter. 

     A volume this size cannot act as the definitive source on each of these individuals. It can, however, whet the appetite for more. The author provides three pages of "Notes on Sources" for those readers who may want to dig deeper into the life and background of a particular individual. The writing is straightforward, the chapters interesting. You may not agree with all the choices, but I believe they fit within her criteria. This is not an attempt to categorize the Greatest Canadians, but is a selection of twelve of the Great Canadians.

      This book should appeal to a wide range of individuals, from the student researching a school project, to the adult searching for something to read during a trip or a quiet evening at home.


Ronald J. Hore, involved with the Canadian Authors Association and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB. 

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

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