CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005
“The Discovering Canada” series, published by Weigl in Calgary, AB, is a poorly conceived and badly-wrought effort. The information presented is eclectically chosen and is presented in a confusing order. Students, who are increasingly accustomed to precise, clearly-written material, will be scratching their heads trying to make useful notes for research projects.
The four books reviewed here have the same format. The Introduction includes a list of expeditions to North America. The list is not representative of the major explorers, but rather the list of explorers that Weigl is featuring: Frobisher, Radisson and Groseilliers, Vancouver and Fraser. The Vikings are also listed, but a book on their travels is not part of the series. On page 5 of each volume there is a picture of a ship's wheel, accompanied by an explanation of its function. This illustration is out of place, and there are no further illustrations of the parts of a ship.
The historical information is redundant, vague or mixed-up. On page 8 of Martin Frobisher, it states: "In 1554, Frobisher served on the crew of another voyage to West Africa. During the trip he was captured." Who captured him is not stated. In a factoid box entitled "Explorer Essentials," it explains that Frobisher was a privateer between the 1560s and 1570s, but in the main text on the same page, it states:
Was Frobisher involved in legal or illegal activities during this period? On page 28, the reader finally finds that Frobisher was a privateer and was jailed in 1569 for raiding a British ship. A caption at the bottom of the same page states: “Frobisher's voyages provided much wealth to Queen Elizabeth's treasure, so she often gave him warning instead of jailing him." Warnings about what? Another factoid box in Groseilliers and Radisson (page 9), informs the reader that Henry Hudson crew mutinied in 1611. There is no relationship between that information and the text on the page, which is about the canoe trip Radisson and Groseilliers took on Lake Superior.
Young researchers trying to gather facts will have to piece them together. Frobisher's three voyages are described in “Ships and Tools” on page 12, but then the first voyage is discussed anew on page 16 in “Across the Atlantic.”
The chronology of events and the historical context of the period of exploration is muddled. The books do not inform students adequately about the rivalries of the French, English and Spanish monarchies which were contending for supremacy in the New World. The goal of the European monarchs to enrich themselves and expand their empires is weakly suggested, but wasn't that the whole purpose of the exploration and establishment of settlements?
Unfortunately, it takes more work to review books that are wanting than books that inform and educate. There are so many negative aspects to this series that a complete analysis would be several pages long. It makes a reviewer/educator exasperated to read material that needs editing for basic grammar and structure, such as this sentence on page 21 of Groseilliers and Radisson: "He died June 1710, near poverty in London." How are children supposed to make sense of this kind of shoddy writing? Yet, the publisher is so concerned for the welfare of the children that they are advised to get an adult's assistance to glue some rocks together to make the tiny inukshuk depicted on page 29 of Frobisher.
This series would not contribute to a library or classroom collection.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.