________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017


Innovation Nation: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier, Happier.

David Johnston & Tom Jenkins. Illustrated by Josh Holinaty.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2017.
128 pp., hardcover & e-book, $24.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-73526-301-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-0-73526-302-4 (e-book).

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Life Jacket
Canada's waters are cold…really, really cold. On the ocean coast or on inland lakes, keeping warm is as important as staying afloat. In fact, people often die more quickly from heat loss than from drowning.

Inuit whale hunters knew this. To stay safe, they made the first flotation devices. Known as spring-pelts, the clothing was sewn from sealskin or seal gut. If hunters fell into the frigid water, the waterproof clothes would help keep them dry and warm and help them to float until they could be rescued. Over time, waterproof vests developed and became better and better at keeping people afloat and preventing the loss of body heat. Eventually, they evolved into the Personal Flotation Devices we know today. Of course, there is one catch to this life-saving innovation; a life jacket only works if you wear it!

Canada's 150th anniversary is the perfect time to create projects that celebrate this country's contributions in so many fields. Here's a timely book that shines the spotlight on 50 innovations—both simple and grand—which have become world-changing and enduring. Its contents span a wealth of topics in science, communications, transportation, health, sports, food and principles of respect. Young readers may be familiar with some of Canada's claims to fame—BlackBerrys, snowmobiles, canoes, maple syrup, hockey, Cirque de Soleil and the Canadarm. But the list in this book may bring surprises, such as the dump truck, blue box recycling, the chocolate bar, the zipper and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which has become an internationally recognized principle.

      The Introduction, "What Makes Canadians so Innovative?", points out that Canada seems to have a healthy share of innovative potential for which the 19th century age of progress may have been a catalyst. There was already a foundation of inventions for exploration and lifestyle by the early inhabitants. The stage was set, and the rest is history. The climate has inspired some scientific and technological devices, and our propensity for working together frequently yields positive results.

      Topics are grouped under seven attention-grabbing chapter headings: Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier and Happier. Each topic is treated to a double spread including a comic-style illustration (which will be in full color) and full page with enough detail to place it in historical context, to acknowledge who was responsible for the idea, how it developed and to show its applications in today's world. The writing style is especially inviting to young readers using a combination of clear, accessible language sprinkled with humor. Each entry is brief but brings enough information to motivate readers to dig deeper if they are interested by the topic. Taken in total, this collection of ideas gives a fascinating look at Canada's contributions to the world and is a fitting tribute to its century and a half as a country.

      "A Timeline of Innovation" lists Canadian creativity as it has spanned the centuries, a great way to see at a glance the degree of productivity in the 1900s. Also, readers can easily see how long the canoe, toboggan and igloo…even peanut butter…have been around. The authors are keen to motivate more innovation, suggesting "How You Can Be An Innovator" through inquiry, ideation, incubation and implementation. These tips will be of most interest to the more sophisticated reader in the target age group of 8-12 and to teachers as a source of discussion and investigation. To that end, the book includes the note that "All proceeds from Innovation Nation will be directed to the Rideau Hall Foundation for activities and programs that inspire and support innovation by Canadians in every province and territory." The book begins with a Contents page, but the Uncorrected Proofs did not include an Index.

      Co-authors Governor-General David Johnston and innovator/entrepreneur Tom Jenkins both bring extensive educational expertise to this volume, along with a desire to encourage young readers to embrace innovative activities and programs.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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