________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 16 . . . . April 4, 2008


Michaëlle Jean. (Remarkable Canadians).

Rebecca Szulhan.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-55388-323-4.

Subject Headings:
Jean, Michaëlle, 1957- -Juvenile literature.
Governors general-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


Michaëlle is Canada's governor general. The governor general represents the queen in Canada. Governors general are chosen by the queen or king of Great Britain. However, the queen asks Canada's prime minister to recommend good candidates for the job. Michaëlle was chosen by Queen Elizabeth II. A governor general holds this position for at least five years. However, his or her term can last as long as seven years. 


Michaëlle Jean is indeed a 'remarkable Canadian.' Born in Haiti in 1957 to a school-teacher father and nurse mother, she and her parents fled Papa Doc's regime in 1967 and settled in Thetford Mines, Quebec. When her parents separated, Michaëlle, her mother and her sister moved to Montreal where she attended the Université de Montreal, taking her degree in Hispanic and Italian language and literature. After graduation, she spent some time in Italy studying Italian and then teaching that language at the Université. After 1986, she worked as a journalist for Radio-Canada, acted in documentary films on human rights directed by her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, and became an advocate for women's rights. In September, 2005, she was made the Governor General of Canada.

     This book attempts to do several different things. It is, first and foremost, a fairly straight-forward biography. Secondly, it attempts to explain the role of the Governor General in Canada. And thirdly, it presents a model which a student could use when writing a biography of a person of his or her own choice.

     As a biography, it is a competent, although totally uncritical, account of the life of a woman who has overcome a number of difficulties to achieve remarkable recognition and success. To compile the summary presented in the first paragraph required a fair amount of jumping forward and backward in the book as not all the facts are presented in a strictly chronological manner, and obviously there is not a lot of detail. By the author's quoting Jean's views on a variety of subjects, readers do get a strong impression of a talented and intelligent woman who is well qualified for the role she is at present called upon to play. Most information deals with her public persona; her private life is hardly mentioned.

     The other two aspects of the book are very sketchy. The information on the office of the Governor General is quoted almost in its entirety above (and it could be noted as a minor inaccuracy that Queen Elizabeth is Queen of Canada and the Commonwealth, not merely of Great Britain); a few other details concerning the position emerge in other sections of the book.

     Since studying one person's biography is often a prelude to writing that of another, the example of a concept web could be a useful teaching tool. I have not tried to fit the facts given in the book into the balloons of the web, but I am sure it is possible.

     Overall, this is a superficial look at an interesting woman. It is an admirable starting point for further research--for which some websites have conveniently been provided. It should also spark interest in some of the areas in which Michaëlle Jean has worked and perhaps even in the process of government--though that is unlikely!


Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, and finds school division politics sufficiently convoluted so as to put her off politics at any other level.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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