________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007


Canadian Crime. (The Dreadful Truth; 4).

Ted Staunton. Illustrated by Remie Geoffroi.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2006.
103 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-0-88780-705-3.

Subject Headings:
Crime-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.
Criminals-Canada-Anecdotes-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Lee Anne Smith.

** /4



By 1884 Riel was broke and teaching school in Montana. Manitoba had long been a province and the Métis, who had been promised land on joining Canada, were still unhappily waiting. Gabriel Dumont, one of their leaders, asked Riel to come back and help.

Riel was happy to oblige. Unhappily, he was a changed man. Since signing the parliamentary register, he'd also signed the register in a couple of insane asylums. He was having visions and saying he was a prophet. This did not make him a calming influence, although he did hint that he could be one for the right price. At any rate, the Métis pot boiled over into rebellion on March 25, 1885, with a shootout at remote Duck Lake in what is now Saskatchewan. The rebels won.


Canadian Crime takes a cheeky look at the history of crime in Canada. In general, I found the book's perspective a little too flip although I acknowledge my bias for presenting history to children straight up and not as action adventures. However, there are some interesting stories included in Canadian Crime that are probably not covered in a regular social studies class on Canada. I do wonder at the inclusion of riots and rebellions as depictions of crime. Political unrest is, to my knowledge, not a crime in Canada, at least not yet. Happily, other sections in this compendium of criminal activity are more on the mark, dealing with sensational murderers, thieves, rumrunners and swindlers.

     At one hundred pages, the book is broken into six sections, seven if you include the introduction. The entries within each section can be as short as one paragraph, but some run a page or two. Each section has 10 to 12 events or personalities. They include those that are well known in Canadian history, such as the Riel Rebellion and prohibition, along with other lesser known train robbers, gangsters and con artists. The two sections that I found the most interesting were "Inventing the Police," the history of fighting crime in Canada, and "Getting Caught," with stories about the early Canadian penal system and descriptions of historical punishments that have thankfully not continued.

      Author Ted Staunton tells his tales using word play and asides to infuse a kind of crime thriller style into the factual events. His writing is smooth if at times overdone in the commentary department. The book's organization is well thought out making the very readable narrative potentially appealing to younger grade levels. The numerous black and white drawings are clear and simple with their use of caricature similar to those used within joke books. The back of the book has a list of titles for further reading. The overall look and feel of the book will appeal to those readers who like their history "lite."

      Despite the intention to make Canadian history more entertaining, I still found the book more oriented to trivia than full accounts of the subjects. The 'facts' do not read, at least to me, with authority. In addition, without a bibliography, it is hard to know where Stanton is getting the history to fuel his commentary.

      Canadian Crime is part of "The Dreadful Truth" series that includes three other titles: Confederation, The Halifax Citadel and Building the Railway. Confederation was selected for consideration in the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Our Choice publication.


Lee Anne Smith, a youth services librarian and Head of the Cambie Branch for Richmond Public Library in Richmond. BC, was the chair of the nonfiction selection committee for the 2005/06 Red Cedar awards.

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

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