________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Elijah Harper. (Remarkable Canadians).

Rebecca Szulhan.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-55388-309-8.

Subject Headings:
Harper, Elijah, 1949- -Juvenile literature.
Cabinet ministers-Manitoba-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Politicians-Manitoba-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Cree Indians-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Legislators-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Canada. Parliament. House of Commons-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

On page 20 of Elijah Harper, a two-page chapter spread offers a concept map with questions a young researcher should investigate to write a thorough biography of an individual. One wonders if Weigl Publishers followed the same guidelines to produce Elijah Harper. It appears not as this book is repetitious, poorly organized and contains both unnecessary and incomplete information.

     Elijah Harper's name will stand in Canadian history as the man who stopped the Meech Lake Accord, a proposal developed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to give special status to the province of Quebec. Harper's opposition to the proposal was based on the lack of status given to the question of aboriginal rights in Canada. His stand changed the shape of Canadian politics and raised the issue of the treatment of aboriginal people to national attention. This book about Harper, part of the "Remarkable Canadians" series, provides young readers with some information about Harper's place in history, but it is generally shallow and muddled and, because of that, a boring account of his life.

     Here are a few examples of poor writing and editing that plague this book. The text states that Harper represented the issues of Aboriginal people, but it does not delineate any of the historical grievances. How is a young researcher supposed to put Harper's life and actions in any perspective? The influences of his family are stressed, but his father's name is not included in a caption on page 17 (it is found in the text on page 6). His children, presumably, are smiling alongside Harper on page 19, but they are not identified among the others standing in the picture. On page 6, it states, "In 1954, Elijah became sick. A doctor decided that he needed to be sent to a hospital. Later, Elijah stayed at a tuberculosis sanatorium." The work ‘tuberculosis' is not explained there, nor is it found in the glossary at the end of the book. The word ‘sanatorium' is defined as "a place where people who are ill go to rest and recover." Tuberculosis and sanatoria played a big role in the life of Aboriginal people for decades. The scourge of tuberculosis is a reflection of the situation of aboriginal people. Why is this not explained? Harper served as an MLA for the New Democratic Party in Manitoba, but he switched to the Liberals when he ran for a federal seat. No mention is made of this change. Under the title "Thoughts from Elijah" is the quote: "I am glad that you have elected me. I say that to you all." Surely every newly elected member expresses his or her thanks upon being elected. Surely Harper had something else important to say in all his years in the provincial legislature and in Canada's Parliament. The text advises that Harper is no longer an elected official. What exactly does he do? A website which is supposed to provide more information about Harper is actually the site for a graphic design and communications firm that does work for native organizations and events. The timeline on page 22 is a hodgepodge of events thrown together. No other mention of Aboriginal peoples has been made throughout this book, but this page includes a sentence about the Urban Indian Relocation Program without telling children that they had been dislocated, and that, in 2000, Australian Aboriginal culture was celebrated during the ceremonies at the Sydney Olympics. What is a child to make of this? "The last residential school in Canada closes in 1996" is found on this page as well, but there has been no discussion about residential schools to that point, their purported purpose, who ran them, when they started or what happened to people as a result.

     Elijah Harper can only be of limited value to children, and should only be used in conjunction with more accurate resources.

Recommended with reservations.

Harriet Zaidman 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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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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