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Pedersen, Joan and Pamela Jacobson Quigg.

Markham (Ont.), Fitzhenry & Whiteside. c1986. 32pp, paper, $3.95, ISBN 0-88902-600-9. (Canadian Families) CIP


Pedersen, Joan and Pamela Jacobson Quigg.

Markham (Ont.), Fitzhenry & Whiteside, c1986. 32pp, paper, $3.95, ISBN 0-88902-602-5. (Canadian Families) CIP

Grades 2-3
Reviewed by Pauline Henaut

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

There is a continuing need for Canadian social studies materials, particularly at the lower elementary level, Fitzhenry & Whiteside's Canadian Families program, to which these two titles belong, attempts to respond to this need.

The books are intended more for classroom, than for library use. Each deals with a situation that can occur within families. In Uncle Perfect, Bud and Bill are excited about the impending visit of their favourite uncle. Their enthusiasm wanes when, shortly after his arrival, he announces his engagement. We accompany the boys as they experience the arrival of their uncle's fiancee, a surprise wedding shower, and the wedding itself.

In Changing Homes, best friends Gretchen and Sandy are delighted at the prospect of becoming stepsisters when Gretchen's mother and Sandy's father decide to marry. The fact that Gretchen's mother is of German origin leads to the new family's exploration of the customs and traditions of the various ethnic groups in the community.

Both stories present insights about human relationships that would be useful in helping children understand the dynamics of family life. In Uncle Perfect, the boys learn that their good relationship with their uncle can be enhanced by the addition of an aunt. Changing Houses gives children a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of creating a large family from two smaller ones.

Unfortunately, the literary quality of the stories does not measure up to the sociological content. The writing is uninspiring; there is little to capture a child's imagination. The characters do not come alive and their conversations are stilted. The sketch-like illustrations do nothing to enliven the text. Both stories, which have no distinctively Canadian features, contain too many episodes, and frustratingly few details about each.

Changing Houses and Uncle Perfect would not be a first choice for a library collection. However, in the hands of a skilful teacher, they could serve as springboards for discussion about family life and about human relationships generally. Recommended, subject to the above reservations, for schools with large budgets.

Pauline Henaut, Westville Schools, Westville, N.S.
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