________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


Farming. (Linking Canadian Communities).

Tatiana Tomljanovic.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-55388-377-7.

Subject Headings:
Agriculture-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Agriculture-Economic aspects-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Agriculture-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½  /4

Farming used to be the backbone of the Canadian economy, with small farms dotting the landscape. Although farming is now a large-scale activity that involves relatively few people, it is still a major factor in the livelihood of millions of Canadians through other industries. Canada is one of the world’s largest food producers, and so knowledge of how a farm works is important to the knowledge base of young children.

     Weigl Publishers has created the “Linking Canadian Communities” series to educate children about industries found in the different regions of Canada. Farming will provide some useful information, but the book also has needless repetition, lacks elaboration of some statements and some information that should be expected in a book about Canadian farms. Publishers who develop materials for the educational market have guaranteed buyers; teachers and librarians are hungry for contemporary-looking books on all topics, especially topics that relate to Canada. It’s disappointing that Weigl does not do rigorous planning and editing to ensure the simple expectation that information is complete and precise. The intended young reader deserves that much to get the most from this resource. Some examples:

     Page 7 – In the “First Hand Account,” a little girl describes the town of Shaunavon – “Shaunavon’s main street is wide. It has no traffic lights.” Considering that the majority of children in Canada live in cities with many traffic lights, and that Shaunavon is the centerpiece community discussed in the book, wouldn’t it be nice to see what the town looks like? Instead, we have a picture of children seated in a circle on the grass, something that does not need representing.

     Page 8 – A timeline lists 1701 as the year that Jethro Tull invented the seed-drill, the first farming machine. No information is offered as to whom Jethro Tull is, if he was Canadian (he was British), what a seed-drill is, or when it was first used in Canada.

     The timeline indicates that in the 1940s “Most farmers use machines to farm instead of horses and cattle.” The next date listed is 2004. Did nothing important happen in farming in the 60 years in between? What about the abandonment of rail lines, the consolidation of grain elevator companies and the disappearance of grain elevators across the West? What about the BSE crisis? Weren’t these significant events that changed farming in Canada?

     Page 10 – The book focuses on the farming community of Shaunavon, SK, and states, “Shaunavon does not have a crushing plant. Farmers send their crops to other communities for crushing. The nearest crushing plant is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.” The text lists other provinces in which crushing plants are located and “The crushing plant in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, can crush 104,000 tonnes of canola per year.” Where is Nipawin, and if Shaunavon is the focus of this book, wouldn’t it be nice to know how much canola is sent from that community?

     Page 12 – The map of Canada’s farmlands – the text states: “This map shows the different kinds of farming in Canada. It also shows where some farming communities are found.” The communities identified on the map are Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and other urban areas. Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqualuit are included, but no farming communities are listed.

     Page 18 – “Some farmers do not believe in using chemicals. This is called organic farming. Organic food costs more to buy. It does not add chemicals to the environment. Do you think that organic farming or farming using pesticides is better?” How is a young child expected to make conclusions about organic farming without any explanation as to why it costs more to produce?

     The types of grains produced on the Canadian prairies have changed over the decades, but young readers will not know how the balance has shifted since that information is not included. Nor will they know that oil derricks now dot the landscape on some farms, that pollution from sour gas is suspected in cattle illnesses, or that genetically-developed seeds have changed the way farming is conducted.

     There is useful information in Farming, but the information that is missing is available and would not cost anything to include. One has to question Weigl’s commitment to high-quality, high-content books when, in the ‘Brain Teasers’ chapter, such an “important” question as “Where is Shaunavon” takes up one-third of a page.

Recommended with reservations.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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