________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 19 . . . . May 16, 2008


Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started.

Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews & Andrew Feindel.
Toronto, ON: The Dundurn Group, 2008.
204 pp., pbk., $26.99.
ISBN 978-1-55002-783-9.

Subject Heading:
Successful people-Canada-Biography.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

*** /4


Until she spoke with her high school guidance counsellor, Valerie Pringle had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. A news junky with a penchant for current affairs, Pringle had never considered a career in media. Thanks to her counsellor's encouragement, however, she applied to the radio and television arts program at Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University). After falling in love with radio, Pringle fought relentlessly to get her foot in the door at a local station.


The authors define success as applying to anyone who "by living according to his or her own personal dictates and desires leaves a mark on the social fabric." They interviewed prominent Canadian men and women from fields as diverse as visual art (Christopher Pratt), dance (Karen Kain), film (Patricia Rozema), business (Peter Munk), politics (Matthew Coon Come) and law (Beverley McLachlin) and asked them how they got started and their secrets of success. Twenty-one male and 12 female respondents are featured in the main profiles that are organized into three sections: Searchers who took their time discovering what they want, Survivors who struggled against obstacles but persevered, and Dreamers, who blazed their own trails. A typical profile begins with a brief quotation one or two sentences in length followed by a biographical introduction two paragraphs in length. The bulk of each entry that spans three to six pages is the success story of the subject, told in the first person, and broken up with content headings. About half of the entries include a small black and white photograph of the subject picturing him or her at an early time in life.

     The authors explain in the introduction that they wanted the interviewees to speak for themselves, but they decided to reshape the transcripts into more readable scripts while retaining the spirit of interview. The edited scripts were exchanged with the interviewees to ensure accuracy and intent. The result is very grammatically polished and readable, but the immediacy of the interviews and the unique linguistic identities of the respondents have been partially lost: the reconstituted first person writings take on the literary style of the interviewers/authors and perhaps the editorial staff of the publisher.

     The decision to include 26 very brief profiles as sidebars within most of the main profiles is most unfortunate as they are distracting, especially when a photograph of the brief interviewee is included. These brief profiles, one or two paragraphs in length, could have been excluded altogether or grouped at the end of each section. One advantage of including the brief profiles of 18 men and eight women is that they include a number of visible minorities and first nation Canadians who are sparsely represented in the main profiles.

     In Kickstart, Herman, Matthews and Feindel, three young members of the ‘Twixter Generation,' have produced an interesting biographical work that has the potential to encourage and inspire anyone who reads it.


Val Ken Lem is the collections evaluation librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.

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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