________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004


Our Song: The Story of O Canada, the Canadian national anthem. (My Canada Series).

Peter Kuitenbrouwer. Illustrated by Ashley Spires.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2004.
24 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-894222-67-9.

Subject Headings:
Lavallee, Calixa, 1842-1891. O Canada-Juvenile literature.
National songs-Canada-History and criticism-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4


Five days later, on Canada's 113th birthday (then known as Dominion Day), 100,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill. At noon, under a scorching sun, Governor General Edward Schreyer, the Queen's representative, signed the royal proclamation, making O Canada official. Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister, announced to the crowd that the national anthem was the best present the country could have on its birthday. "Let us sing together this anthem to this country we truly love," said Trudeau, and the crowd burst into song. Lavalee's tune, composed so many years ago, had come a long way.


First in the "My Canada Series" celebrating Canadian history, Our Song traces the evolution of the Canadian national anthem. The colourful, eye-catching cover, on which a small, multi-racial choir is depicted singing the anthem on Parliament Hill, typifies Canada's multicultural diversity. Following the sheet music for the present-day version of the song, the remainder of the book is devoted to the history of both the French and English versions of the anthem which debuted in Québec City in 1880. It was not until 1980 that a committee, having read over 1,000 letters from Canadian citizens regarding the anthem, suggested the changes that resulted in the official version
of O Canada that is sung today.

internal art

     The book is cleverly divided into two main parts, with double-page spreads providing both the English and French words to just a few lines of the song at a time as well as a 20-year time line. Alternate double-page spreads tell the story of the many people- and circumstances- whose poems eventually were turned into the anthem's lyrics in both official languages.

     Delightful collage illustrations, with their cartoon-like figures, represent all areas of Canada. A common theme running throughout the book is the maple leaf which appears in embossed form in all of the backgrounds. The end papers show maps of Canada at two points in history- the first, in 1880, when the original version of O Canada was penned, and the second is of present-day Canada. This book provides a fun and lively way to learn about an interesting part of this country's history.


Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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