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Elizabeth Abbott, Editor-in-chief

Vancouver, Raincoast Books/Chronicle Publications, 1990. 980pp, cloth, ISBN 0-920417-16-7
Distributed by Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd., 112 East 3rd Ave., Vancouver, British Columbia V5T 1C8

Grades 8 and up/ Ages 13 and up
Reviewed by P.J. Hammel.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

"Chronicle of Canada is the story of a nation unique in the world... Under­standing this, we have approached our nation's history with love and respect. We have attempted to examine every dimension of its complex development... we have created a permanent and vital testimony for our people. We have made sense of things previously ignored, concealed, misunderstood. We feel we have given back to our native peoples something of their original greatness. We have tried to expose wrongs, exalt goodness, and recognize dreams, frustrations, hope, despair, and unquenchable faith." Thus Elizabeth Abbott sets out the purpose for this work.

It is an extensive work, consisting of 980 pages. At 23 x 29 cm - larger than usual - it includes several thousand brief articles and an almost equal number of illustrations. The first chapter - the shortest at 39 pages - includes 117 articles, 74 individual maps and pictures plus double- and single-page spreads adding up to a total of 219 illustrations. Also included in this chapter are 9 aboriginal legends and 9 chronology columns. Five additional chapters, all much more extensive, plus an appendix offer a similar array of articles and illustrations.

The articles are presented in journal­istic, newspaper article format with place and date lines to simulate a sense of "here and now" for the reader. As a result, the reader, willingly suspending her/his disbelief, becomes a contempo­rary of the individuals discussed and a part of the events described. Because of the episodic nature so introduced, the reader, if he/she wishes to follow all the events of a particular time or issue, must consult the very detailed index sup­plied.

The single-column chronologies appear irregularly but frequently. Their purpose is to present events and biographical information not provided in the articles - for example, covering the War of 1812 are eleven articles and twelve entries in the chronology, none of them repetitive.

Illustrations, from two to six per page, provide an excellent visual component. They consist of maps, representations, photographs and, in the sections dealing with more recent eras, cartoons, reproductions of aboriginal works of art, and illustrations from children's and young people's books.

The last twenty-four pages provide what appears to be an after-thought. First, there are six pages, totalling twenty-seven articles, appearing under the heading "My Canada." These articles were written by contemporary Canadians and were selected as a result of what is referred to as the Chronicle of Canada contest. Presenting these contributions in the form of place and date-lined newspaper articles is not nearly as effective as in the main text.

There follows six pages of environ­mental articles. These are presented in straightforward expository style without the newspaper article format. Finally, twelve pages of expository information about each of the provinces and territories offered, providing basic information, brief statistics, illustrations of the appropriate flag and coat of arms and at least one picture of a typical scene. One wonders if the nine hundred pages of history and illustrations were considered incomplete without this information, which could easily have been found elsewhere.

As suggested earlier, this is a tremen­dously ambitious work covering, in text and illustration, Canadian history from the formation of the planet to December 1989. The newspaper article format establishes a sense of realism in an effective way; the resulting episodic nature of the text may, however, make it difficult to read in a sequential and extensive manner.

Credit must be given for the excellent collection of illustrations, which provide a visual history of Canada never before available to the student in one source. These illustrations alone will make this work of interest to the younger students in addition to the senior high school students, at whose reading level the text seems to have been written. Finally, this combination of brief articles and numerous illustrations will probably make this a work to be dipped into more for brief browsing than for intensive factual research.

P.J. Hammel, University of Saskatch­ewan, Saskatoon, Sask.
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