________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


Mirror with a Memory: A Nation’s Story in Photographs.

Janice Weaver.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
159 pp., hardcover, $39.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-747-0.

Subject Heading:
Canada-Pictorial works.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


After Winnipeg’s 1950 flood, the province built floodways- channels for diverting overflow water like spring runoff- and adopted other flood-control measures. These protected Winnipeg, but rural areas remained vulnerable. In 1997, when the mighty Red River once again overflowed its banks, it submerged about eight hundred farms- and at least one doghouse- between Winnipeg and the United States border. Sandbag dams became such a common sight that Manitobans- who never lost their sense of humour- took to calling the bags Red River perogies, a nod to the Ukrainian heritage of so many of the province’s residents.


When the camera was invented, a writer for an American magazine described it as “a mirror with a memory.” The camera has evolved from a device which initially required the subject to sit absolutely still for 15 minutes to avoid blurred streaks in the finished photo to the lightning-quick cameras of today which can capture crisp action shots. This book takes readers on a photographic journey through the history of Canada, from Confederation to the present. Following a brief introduction, the book is divided into seven chapters, each one dealing with a different category. Each chapter begins with a two-page overview of the topic followed by photographs (principally black and white) and their fairly lengthy descriptions, which are arranged chronologically within the theme. The first chapter highlights, among other historical events, Confederation, the driving of the last spike for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the construction of the Parliament Buildings, the Yukon Gold Rush and the wave of immigration following Confederation. Another chapter discusses modes of transportation used in Canada over the years. Readers will find it interesting that, besides the usual boats, Red River carts and trains commonly used, men trying to travel through the Cariboo Mountains during the Klondike Gold Rush rode camels. (This experiment was short-lived, lasting only four months, as the camels were not used to mountainous terrain and were very surly, spooking the other pack animals.) During the Depression, people couldn’t afford gas for their cars, and so they hitched their horses to the cars. Other topics include Canada’s involvement in various wars; natural and manmade disasters, such as rockslides, rail accidents, fires, floods, ice storms and mine explosions; people at play- sports and recreation- one highlight being Paul Henderson’s history-making goal in the Canada-Soviet Union hockey final; and Canada into the present, which provides, for example, information about the country’s new flag, Expo ’67, separatism, Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope and the creation of Nunavut.

internal art

     Weaver’s writing makes even the driest of subjects sound interesting. She explains the event depicted in the photograph in a concise manner that is easy to comprehend, often adding quotes and injecting a bit of humour to the story behind the picture. On occasion, she points out details in the photographs which might go unnoticed. In one case, she points out that a seemingly authentic photo was actually doctored purposely to convince the Canadian people to support the war effort in World War I. A table of contents, a map and an index are included.

     Some of the photographs are very well known- for instance, that of Donald A. Smith hammering home the last spike of the CPR- but the majority of them are not. Their subjects range from the famous to the everyday citizen, the events ranging from the jubilant to the tragic. An incredible photographic journey!

Highly Recommended.

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

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.