CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004
The people of the First Nations in the lands Samuel de Champlain hoped to explore were also travelers and explorers. Around the time Champlain was becoming a leader among the French visitors to Canada, a man named Atironta was growing into a leader of his people, the Huron. Atironta wrote no books, and his maps were kept in his head, or scratched on pieces of birchbark. But as Europeans and First Nations came into more constant contact in Canada, Atironta's life and Champlain's would become tangled together.
Historian and author Christopher Moore's latest offering is an expanded and revised edition of his 1986 book, Samuel de Champlain. Readers will learn about Champlain's life from his time as a young man in a village in coastal France until his death on Christmas Day in 1635.
The book is organized chronologically and provides thorough coverage of Champlain's travels, attempts at settlement, and further explorations. In addition, there is information about the First Nations settlements in Canada at the time that Champlain was exploring. Finally, Moore examines the impact Champlain's discoveries and travels had on life in Canada.
This biography is very well written and has several particular strengths. First is Moore's balanced look at history from the perspectives both of the French settlers and the First Nations people. Many histories give quick lip service to the effects that colonization had on the First Nations populations, but Moore goes several steps further by including details that portray Canada's aboriginals as intelligent traders and warriors. Readers are also offered explanations as to why Huron leaders were looking for new allies when Champlain returned to Canada.
The illustrations, by Frances Back, are another great strength of this book. Back's paintings of early Canada are displayed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, and his research experience with this time period shows in the details and colours used in his artwork here. Additional illustrations are provided in the form of archival artwork, maps, and photographs of artefacts. All of these illustrations are credited at the back of the book.
The book's design is very good. The main text is large and printed on a white background. Asides are set off from the main story with a different coloured background and a different font. That the book is visually appealing may help it move beyond the report-writing audience to reach browsers as well.
The book ends with a section called "The Champlain Mysteries," an explanation of what historians do not know about Champlain. I am sure that this page will launch many discussions and further research into these mysteries. A list of historic sites and monuments and a bibliography are included, as is the web address for the Champlain Society Digital Collection.
This edition is a dramatic improvement over the last which was published in 1986 by Grolier. Colour illustrations, a larger size, and substantially revised text make the current edition a must for school and public libraries across Canada.
Grace Sheppard is a Children's Librarian with the Ottawa Public Library in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.