________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009

cover Laura Secord. (Remarkable Canadians).

Jennifer House.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-481-1 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55388-480-4 (hc.).

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Ian Stewart.

*** /4

cover Louis Riel. (Remarkable Canadians).

Carol Koopmans.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-455-2 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55388-454-5 (hc.).

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Ian Stewart.

*** /4


Little is known about Laura's life or how she felt about the people that she met. What is known, however, is the great influence Laura has had on generations of Canadians. Poems, plays, and biographies have been written about Laura that feature the brave actions she took to carry the news to the British of an impending attack. Laura was not known to the public as a national hero until she was 86 years of age. (From Laura Secord.)

Leaders are often people who have a strong vision and want to achieve specific goals. They use their education, experience, and skills to reach these goals. Leaders may be people who draw attention to important issues that impact people around the world. Many Métis consider Louis Riel to be a hero. He was a leader who sought equal rights for the Métis and a leader who guided and inspired others. Louis Riel was a political leader. He was elected to represent the Métis as they challenged the government for their rights or freedoms. (From Louis Riel.)

These two fine biographies of Laura Secord and Louis Riel, part of the "Remarkable Canadians" series, will be a welcome addition to the history section of elementary school libraries. They are written clearly and provide middle-years students with sufficiently concise information to develop an age-appropriate understanding of the individuals. Even though Secord and Riel had vastly different lives, both, as the series title indicates, are worthy of being called "remarkable Canadians." Secord and Riel, we are told, both acted as leaders and risked their lives by taking actions they believed would help their people and their country. Secord fits the conventional historical mold of hero and is recognized as a symbol of bravery and determination. Without her heroism, the British might have lost Canada to the United States during the War of 1812-1814. As her biography demonstrates, this heroism was surprising. She was a conventional woman who worked hard on the family farm. When she learned that the Americans were planning a surprise attack on the British army, she risked her life by traveling 32 kilometers through hostile territory to warn the British.

     However, the heroism of Riel rightly falls into the dark pit of historical relativism. Like all historians, students are faced with a dilemma: what is historical truth? How could Riel be vilified as a traitor to his country for more than a century but now be considered a hero to Manitoba's and Saskatchewan's Métis people, considered the "father" of Manitoba for his role in Manitoba's 1870 entry into the Canadian Confederation and even has his own Manitoba holiday, "Louis Riel Day." The historical community is not as unified regarding this question as we are led to believe.

     Both these books provide a generous amount of background material which fills out the lives of these two individuals. The Secord book also includes a section on other women considered heroes in Canadian history, and the Riel book includes the accomplishments of prominent Métis who are leaders in their community.

     There is also a section on writing a biography, a historical timeline, a list of other resources, a glossary of terms and an index.


Ian Stewart teaches at David Livingstone School in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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