CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002
What is Canadian history? Is it dull, dreary, drab, dross, or dramatic tales of daring and sometimes dastardly doings of adventurers, scamps and scallywags? Claire Mackay is out to prove to young readers that Canadian history is not of the boring variety. No, the First Nations peoples and European men and women who forged our nation could be as greedy, conniving, stupid and murderous as those who built the world's admired rapacious empires. They could also be heroic, saintly and magnificent. Whatever their character, the historical actors who walked the Canadian historical stage were people of action and determination who deserve to be seen as fully fleshed persons. This is all well and good. Elementary and middle-years teachers should be aware that there is more to history than what is written in conventional text books. They should be willing and able to introduce students to the other "truths" of history. There is certainly a place for books like Mackay's in school libraries and children's personal collections but definitely not Mackay's.
Mackay warns her readers that her book is a "send-up," poking fun at everyone and sparing no sensibilities. This irreverent romp through Canada's past, from the ice age through Samuel de Champlain, reads like an over-extended, as well as dated, Monty Python skit. Unfortunately, Mackay's sense of historical irony is non-existent, and what is meant to be satirical send-up sinks into sarcasm and, arguably, unthinking racist attitudes. This is most damningly evident in the mocking of First Nations' spirituality.
Stewart, a teacher in Winnipeg School Division #1, is also a regular
book reviewer in Canadian history and politics for the Winnipeg Free
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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.