CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018
"Welcome to British North America" is a brand-new series of six books by Heather C. Hudak. The titles offer "a wide-ranging look at life in Upper Canada after it was settled by the British". Individual titles focus on a specific aspect of British North America from 1713 to 1850, from the establishment and governance of the British colonies to daily life for the settlers and Indigenous Peoples. Each book consists of 32 pages divided into six chapters with a glossary and index at the end. Also included at the end is a page called "To Learn More" which lists additional books and websites (three of each) to further learning or complement the information from each book. This series also hosts a plethora of additional nonfiction text features that will complement reading and learning: table of contents, titles, headings, paintings/drawings, photos, framing questions, maps, captions/labels, bold or italicized print, inserts or sidebars, and charts.
Though these books are not numbered and can be read in any order for the information you seek, it makes sense to read Settlement of British North America first. This title begins with the original Viking explorers before getting into the British and French explorers, and the volume covers the early settlements along the eastern coast (extending into the United States), as well as Hudson Bay, the St. Lawrence River, Great Lakes, and the areas now known as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Maine, and the Gaspe Peninsula. Hudak progresses into early fur trade negotiations and then focuses on the disagreements and eventual war between the French and British and the repercussions and impacts of these conflicts on the colonies and settlement. British North America was eventually divided into Upper and Lower Canada and then officially united as Canada in 1841. Hudak only briefly touches on the impact the settlers were having on the Indigenous Peoples, but these issues are explored more fully in some of the other titles.
Communities in British North America explores the reasons behind European settlers coming to British North America, where the early communities settled, fighting between the settlements, and expansion of settlements. This title mentions early alliances with Indigenous Peoples, as well as the slave trade that emerged, early Indigenous communities, and the loss of Indigenous land. Hudak then branches out to include Upper Canada, once that was formed, and the communities that formed around the capitals and the parliament that was established. Also mentioned are the fur trade and trading post communities that developed, including the formation of Métis communities.
Conflicts in British North America is a more in-depth look at the disagreements that plagued British North America. Initial conflicts surrounded the religious positions of both the British and French and the constant disagreement over who should have control over British North America. The result was numerous power struggles and wars, both in British North America and overseas in Britain and France. Some of the detailed wars include alliances with, and wars against, the Indigenous Peoples of British North America. This title concludes with the War of 1812 and the establishment of borders between the United States and British North America.
Hudak once again gives a brief account of the arrival of settlers to British North America, early alliances, fur trade, and conflicts before moving on to new topics in Daily Life in British North America. This title gives specifics about the roles of men, women, and children in British North America, and how the communities were formed (including deforestation, how the houses and buildings were built, and farming). Details are provided about what the insides of the homes looked like, how clothing was created and what it looked like (for both winter and summer), how people cooked, how they created furniture, what fishing and farming entailed, how children were schooled, and how the Indigenous Peoples provided advice and skills on how to survive winters and thrive with farming.
Governance of British North America begins after a brief recap of the conflicts between the French and British for control over British North America, which culminated in the British winning, and the resulting split into Upper and Lower Canada to make allowances for different ways of life, different religions, and different governance of the British and French settlers. This title goes on to detail how the parliament was run, the different members, and gives specifics on some influential people involved in the government, people such as John Graves Simcoe and William Lyon Mackenzie. There continued to be unrest in government due to the British wanting British North America to be as much like Great Britain as possible. Hudak shares the British unwillingness to consider both the French and the Indigenous Peoples' wants and needs as the British maintained their desire to change Upper and Lower Canada into a 'New Britain'. As this unrest starts to be resolved in 1848 with the establishment of a responsible government, British North America begins taking its first steps towards Confederation.
Indigenous Relations in British North America briefly speculates about how and when Indigenous Peoples initially came to what is now known as Canada and includes a myth which claims Indigenous Peoples have always lived on this land as opposed to migrating here. Hudak also lists the geographical groups and names of early Indigenous Peoples as well as providing a snippet of what their daily life looked like. This title goes on to discuss the fur trade and the Hudson's Bay Company, the Métis, and the early alliances the settlers formed with the Indigenous Peoples. Hudak also touches on how the Indigenous alliances with the settlers often caused conflicts between various Indigenous groups, depending on whether they were allies with the French or British settlers. Hudak generally portrays the Indigenous/settler relations in fairly neutral tones until more settlers continued to come to British North America and land continued to be taken away from the Indigenous Peoples, particularly after the War of 1812.
The titles in the "Welcome to British North America" series are accurately labelled as juvenile literature and would be best suited for grades 3-6 (depending on reading level and needs). These titles would appear to be best enjoyed individually as reading them with each other (or fairly close together) results in some information becoming quite repetitive and borders on becoming boring. However, this repetition may be a redeeming quality for those encountering the information for the first time as it will more likely result in their committing this information to memory. The repetition also (indirectly) provides frequent examples of how to restate the same information in different ways. These titles offer useful information as well as offering good examples of nonfiction text features for educational use.
Dawn Opheim, an avid reader with a Masters degree in Teacher-Librarianship, works at two elementary school libraries in Saskatoon, SK.