CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Kenneth G. Roberts and Philip Shackelton.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1983.
279pp, cloth, $50.00.
ISBN 0-7715-9582-4.

Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by Ches Sulkowski.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

The Canoe, a history of the craft from Panama to the Arctic, will be regarded as the most complete text ever written on the subject. The extensive span of research is next to phenomenal and took the authors to three continents and through twelve years of preparation. The result is a book containing a wealth of information, facts, letters, illustrations, pictures of native art past and present, paintings and drawings by early European explorers, artists and travellers, and numerous photographs both early and contemporary. This comprehensive and richly illustrated text covers almost every important historical aspect of the canoe in North America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

The authors' backgrounds complement their achievements. Ken Roberts holds a BA from the University of Toronto and a degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. He has worked as a free-lance writer, photo journalist, staff member at Saturday Night magazine, and as a public relations officer for the department of national defense. Philip Shackle-ton is a BA graduate of the University of Toronto. His expertise is in early Canadian furniture, and he is author of The Furniture of Old Ontario (Macmillan 1973). Heis a widely-recognized authority and has acted as consultant and supplier of period furniture for a number of outstanding restoration projects in Canada. Both authors are avid canoeists and good friends.

Their combined efforts have produced a very handsome book. The numerous reproductions of paintings, drawings, and photographs are artistically exhibited and further complemented with detailed descriptions. The strength is in the historical research providing interesting accounts of tribes and travellers and their customs, wars, adventures, ceremonies, and building techniques.

These historical tidbits, illustrations, and photographs help make, what could be arduous reading into a more interesting voyage about the story of the craft that played such a large part in the history of our continent.

The Canoe discusses early forms, from rafts and floats, right tahrough a variety of tribal stylized dugouts. It provides fascinating accounts of societies that developed skinboats in forms of kayaks, umiaks, bull boats, and lastly the birch bark canoe. The methods of construction, many uses, and historical importance richly add to one's reading enjoyment. The final chapter on the modern canoe carries the reader through turn-of-the-century methods of construction, both Indian and industrial.

This text has covered an incredible amount of information and in doing so has given the canoe a great significance and importance to the early history of the Americas. In spite of some tedious reading, it will be always considered a monument to the canoe.

For the avid historian, canoeist, crafts person, or book collector it is a classic. It is also a tribute to our natives, past and present, who built and paddled these crafts. For the high school student, it can be a valuable resource and be used in many areas of education. Highly recommended for all libraries.

Ches Sulkowski, Annandale H. S., Tillsonburg, ON.
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