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Elizabeth Waterston
New York, Twayne, 1992.210pp, cloth, $29.95
ISBN 0-8057-8264-8. (Twayne's World Authors series). Distributed by Maxwell Macmillan Canada. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Katheryn Broughton.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

As a contributor to the Children's Literature section of Twayne's "World Authors" series, Elizabeth Waterston brings her scholarship to the topic of Canada's publications in this field. This accessible survey begins by setting the scene in the realities of Canadian geography, noting the effects of distance and climate on settlement and early writings. The author invites American readers (as well as her own compatriots) to discover this distinctive literature of the continent and language they share.

The range in this study is comprehensive: folk-tales, nursery stories, traditional tales (myths, legends, classical works), quests, animal stories, and historical fiction, as well as young adult (often "problem") novels. In each section, several titles are examined in detail, while others are mentioned in passing.

Waterston describes the developmental phases a child goes through in the growing-up process and matches the literature to such experiences. For example, she devotes a chapter to "Girls Choice." Here she notes the "complex mental processes" of which the female adolescent is capable, a fact compli­cated by a "crisis in self-definition" suffered during this confusing period. In adult fiction, our most celebrated recent writers are women (Atwood, Laurence, Munro, Roy) who have delineated the experience of girls and women in our society, thereby validating lives often marginalized. These writers have also written for and/or about children and adolescents.

"Boys as Heroes" is a chapter devoted to the initiation stories of the young male, who is usually portrayed as bravely challenging the wilderness for survival. "Problem" novels, often depicting an anti-hero, ap­peared in the 1970s and are still being published today.

Features include a chronology (which sets titles alongside historical events), ten black-and-white illustrations, notes and references, selected bibliography (with selections starred to note "Discussed in some detail"), and a comprehensive index.

As a survey of Canadian literature for children, this study stands on its own merits; it is particularly useful in tandem with Sheila Egoff's update of her ground-breaking study (with Judith Saltman), now entitled The New Republic of Childhood. Children's Literature in Canada is essential as a reference tool for any OAC course on children's literature.

Highly recommended.

Katheryn Broughton is a retired teacher-librarian in Thornhill, Ontario.
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