CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006
As with Stanbridge's previous information book, Famous Dead Canadians, this book is written from the same premise: trips with Plumley Q. Norris in a big black taxi to a number of historical sites associated with famous dead Canadians. In this second installment, the professor has lost an important briefcase and requires the reader's assistance in locating it. The reader will help the professor find his briefcase, and he will help the reader with an assignment. The same chatty style and sketchy cartoons by Bill Dickson are used.
Although the 15 famous Canadians included in this title are not in chronological order, each life story of 10-12 pages does give enough background for a report. The pertinent information in "Just the Plain Facts About" at the end of each biography will also be very useful for researchers.
Although there is no index, the table of contents is quite sufficient.
The slightly offbeat titles for some of the past Canadians may also appeal. These include: "William Lyon Mackenzie King: Top Secret," "Radisson and Grosseilliers: Flip and Flop," and "Henry Hudson: From Bad to Worse." As with the first book, Stanbridge includes a cross-section of occupations, such as explorers, politicians, and doctors; and eventful periods of Canadian history, ranging from the late 1500s to the late 1900s, are featured in the 15 biographies. The lives of three other women of note, including Emily Carr and Mary Ann Shadd, are also examined. Others included are inventor, pilot and secret agent William Stephanson; Dr. Norman Bethune; Métis leader Louis Riel; and doctor and suffragette Emily Stowe.
Useful informational references include the Introduction that gives some brief information about the premise of the book that acts as a bridge from the first title. At the end of the book, there is a "Famous Portrait Gallery" of the featured Canadians with amusing speech bubbles. For instance, for the painting of stranded Henry Hudson, it says, "What I need is a warm Hudson's Bay blanket." "Illustration Credits" and a "Selected Bibliography" round out the title.
While Scholastic lists the book for 8 to 11-year-olds, it is difficult to determine the age level for which this book is really intended. The chatty style makes it accessible to these younger students, but would the lower end of that age range be assigned essays on famous Canadians? Furthermore, would they know enough about Canadian history to understand the humor? It seems that the content is aimed more at older students. Each entry is chock-a-block full of interesting details and doesn't gloss over the fallibilities of these famous persons. For instance, Grey Owl's four marriages - sometimes to more than one woman at a time - his drinking, and the "acquired" native heritage are all detailed. On the other hand, the frequent references to the lost briefcase, the black taxi, and class assignments may be off-putting to older students.
After all is said and done, possibly the real strength in this title is that it may be just the thing needed to get children interested in Canadian history.
Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children's Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005 and is now acting as a children's literature consultant.
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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.