________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006


Everything You Need to Know About Canadian Social Studies Homework.  

Anne Zeman & Kate Kelly.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2006.
116 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 0-439-95233-6.
Subject Headings:
Social sciences-Canada-Study and teaching-Handbooks, manuals, etc.-Juvenile literature.
Homework-Handbooks, manuals, etc.-Juvenile literature.
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Gail Hamilton.
*** /4 


By 1600, Canada supported a thriving international scene of merchant fishermen and adventurers representing several European nations. But none of the European communities were year-round settlements- that is, until Samuel de Champlain set his sights on the St. Lawrence. England kept a close watch on the French adventurers in northern North America and made its own claims to what are now Canadian lands. What’s more, waves of European missionaries came to stake a claim for Christianity. In the process, traditional alliances and rivalries among Aboriginal peoples shifted, creating a whole new political and economic landscape in early Canada. 

Part of the “Everything You Need to Know About…Homework” series, designed for students in Grades 4-6, this book provides a wealth of information about Canada’s  history and geography, and, according to the authors, answers frequently asked homework questions about Canadian social studies. The book is divided into three main sections- Canadian history, provinces and territories, and Canada today, which deals with government and the judicial system.  

     Following a brief introduction, which explains how to use the book, and a large political map of Canada, the book begins with the history of this country, from the time of Pangaea, and takes readers through to the present. Topics covered in this, the largest of the book’s sections, include the various groups of aboriginal people, explorers, wars and rebellions, Confederation, the building of the railway, women’s rights and the labour movement, and immigration.

     The second section features facts about each province and territory, listing, in point form, the area, population, capital city, major geographical features and principal industries. Presented in alphabetical order, each province or territory is shown on a map of Canada along with its flag. Each double-page spread also has a larger political map of the province/territory, accompanied by a colour photograph and a fact box. Finally, the smallest of the sections explains Canada’s parliamentary system and how it works. Here, students will find a list of Canadian Prime Ministers, learn how a bill becomes a law and which matters are the responsibilities of the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Diagrams and charts help students to understand the information presented. 

     An interesting concept, this book has both strengths and weaknesses. Jam-packed with information, abundant maps, charts, diagrams, drawings and photographs, it will indeed be a useful resource. Different coloured bands along the side of each page distinguish between the three sections, thereby enabling readers to find the information more quickly. The simple, large font is often printed in colour to break the monotony and to add visual appeal. The authors have made an attempt to vary the presentation. In the history section, for example, the type of information lends itself to written paragraphs whereas the facts about the provinces and territories are more easily provided in point form. This is quite successful; however, the reading level appears to be higher, in terms of vocabulary, in the history section and might be too difficult for readers in the lower range of the target audience. Though the information is mostly general, some topics are more detailed than others. One would expect more of a focus on Confederation and Sir John A. MacDonald, for instance, than is given here. And, although there is much covered in this book, the cheap paper and lackluster illustrations make it rather unappealing. A table of contents and an index are included. 

     Despite some minor flaws, this handy desk reference will be useful, especially to the older readers of its intended audience. 


Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.  

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

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