CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 23. . . February 24, 2017
Ulmer, the author of M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet, returns to Canada as his subject matter for the alphabet book, C is for Canada, which, as the subtitle indicates, recognizes the nation’s 150th birthday. Those already familiar with the Sleeping Bear Press series of Canadian-focussed alphabet books, titles such as T is for Territories: A Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut Alphabet and G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet, will recall that the text portion consisted of poetry and informational prose, with both appearing on the same “letter” page(s). In C is for Canada, Ulmer and/or the designer have separated the two text forms with Ulmer’s four-line poems remaining with the illustrations while the factual information connected to the focal letter has been moved to a closing two-page section. This design modification has its up and downsides. Gauging the audience level for a book like G is for Golden Boy was challenging. Its being an alphabet book suggested a pre or early school “readership”, but the information portion of the text called for more advanced reading skills. The physical separation of the two text forms now makes C is for Canada much more accessible to the early years crowd. The obvious downside is that the information section may become “invisible”.
Ulmer’s choices of “things” to represent Canada range from the obvious, like B’s Beaver, L’s Loonies and M’s Maple Leaf, to the lesser known, such as E’s Edgewalk, I’s Island Hymn and X’s Camp X. These lesser knowns really require that readers consult the two fact pages in order to better understand what they are seeing. As the except illustrates, the relationship between the “thing” representing a letter and Canada is not always immediately apparent. Another example would be “G is for Gravy”, but the connection becomes obvious in Daigneault’s illustration which links gravy with that very Canadian culinary treat – poutine. The quality of rhythm of Ulmer’s four-line poems, which utilize a variety of rhyme schemes, is somewhat uneven.
Daigneault’s illustrations are excellent, full of colour, detail and action. The only illustration that I questioned was that accompanying Q is for Quebec City. Ulmer’s poem reads:
Nothing in Daigneault’s street scene connects to Ulmer’s words, and none of the details in the drawing leave me with a distinct feeling of being in Quebec City.
Overall, C is for Canada is a most worthy home and library purchase, and its contents can provide starting points for child/adult conversations about Canada.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.