CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Kids, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Twentieth century-Juvenile literature.
History, Modern-20th century-Juvenile literature.
Kindergarten and up / Ages 5 and up.
Review by Val Nielsen.
Janet Wilson has a well-deserved reputation for her authentic artistic interpretations of Canadian
historical picture books. Memorable images and meticulous research characterize her illustrations
of stories such as Barbara Smucker's Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt (for which Wilson won the
1995 Elizabeth Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award) and its sequel, Selina and the Shoo-Fly
Pie, as well as Linda Granfield's In Flanders' Fields, winner of two awards that same year.
Imagine That! is the first book that Wilson has both written and illustrated. In it, the
author-illustrator has taken on the challenge of creating an information picture book which is both
a fact-filled reference volume and a search-and-find activity book.
On her hundredth birthday, Auntie Violet reminisces with her great grand-niece, sharing her
wonder at all the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Told in the first person from a
centenarian's point of view, the main text is a conversation consisting of great Auntie Violet's
"remembering when" as her great grandniece Elizabeth exhibits the curiosity and delight of a
typical six-year-old. A colourful double-page montage highlighting the achievements and
milestones of each decade of the 20th century surrounds Auntie Violet as she relates her
memories. Sidebars consisting of historical facts arranged chronologically are not only
colour-coded by decade, but they also are designed to match the colours of images in the
This last feature is probably the reason the publisher advertises Imagine That! as "... a fun
search-and-find activity book ... a unique interactive experience." Unfortunately, several factors
will almost certainly inhibit a young person's desire to use the book for this purpose. To begin
with, there are just too many facts for most youngsters to want either to read themselves or listen
to. Although the hundreds of small illustrations are beautifully drawn and historically accurate, an
interactive "See if you can find the decade of the popsicle" type of game using the book as a
reference would soon try the patience of a senior and the attention span of young child. The very
small print in the fact-filled sidebars will deter both old and young eyes, while even independent
readers would need an adult at their side to appreciate this book fully. Reminiscing is an activity
best done face-to-face or on a lap (as Wilson's illustrations clearly show).
The wealth of detail plus the organization of great events and achievements of the 20th century
into themes such as technology, entertainment, food, fashion and medicine make Imagine That!
an amazing picture book, but one that will have a good deal more appeal to adults over the age of
fifty than to children. Teachers engaging their students in language arts or social studies themes
dealing with growing old may find this book a useful resource. Older students asked to do
projects on 20th century Canadian or world history, might, under the guidance of a teacher or
librarian, make good use of the colour-coded sidebars to find important events and achievements
of the last hundred years. In short, librarians are likely to find that Imagine That! will make a
better research resource for upper elementary students than a read-aloud for younger children.
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
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