________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2011.


The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Literary History of British Columbia, Vol. 4).

Alan Twigg.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2010.
318 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55380-108-5.

Subject Heading:
Canadian literature-British Columbia-History & criticism.


Review by David Ward.





The Essentials is an invitation to visit 150 literary markers for a journey – or pilgrimage – to discover the nature of our collective story as British Columbians. To prevent this book from turning into a doorstopper, authors who have mainly achieved prominence elsewhere, such as Milton Acorn, Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, James Clavell, Raymond Chandler, Margaret Laurence, Al Purdy, Sinclair Ross, Robert Service and Carol Shields, have been excluded – along with 9000 others. (Alan Twigg, p. 14)

Alan Twigg’s introduction to Volume 4 of the “Literary History of British Columbia” captures the essence of this book: it is a volume that excludes many so that other, important names and works could be included. To be sure, there are still many recognizable figures within Volume 4. Margaret Trudeau, David Suzuki, and Douglas Coupland are included, for example. Others, however, such as George Mercer Dawson or Margaret McNaughton are not as well known as writers of British Columbia. The Essentials provides an historical, (1774-2010) intriguing and regional view of significant writers in B.C. In this review, I have focused attention on the few writers included in the collection who wrote specifically for children. I have also focused on authors who have made significant contributions to children’s literature.

     Perhaps the most prominent name in regards to literature for children in Volume 4 is Sheila A. Egoff. Of her, Twigg says:

Egoff taught for many years in the Faculty of Education at UBC, until 1983. In 1994, she became the first children’s literature professor to receive the Order of Canada and she was honoured by a reception at the BC. Book Prizes gala in 2000. “I’m very happy to be here tonight,” she told the gathering. “Mind you, at 82, I am happy to be anywhere…I know things aren’t as good as they should be, but every time I pick up a Canadian children’s book, I can see they’re acknowledging help from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council or the B.C. Arts Council. It’s like our social security network. We know it isn’t perfect, but, my gosh, it’s sure better than it used to be.”

     Another notable writer was George Clutesi, a First Nations spokesman and painter. Clutesi broadcasted Aboriginal stories for children on the CBC. It was interesting to note that Emily Carr bequeathed her paintbrushes to Clutesi.

     Christie Harris came to Fernie BC in 1908. She wrote Raven’s Cry in 1966 and is credited with being the first writer to successfully, “relate Aboriginal myths and stories to young readers....”

     Another significant author for children is Anne Cameron. Cameron has written many books for children including The Gumboot Geese (2000), a story that integrates detailed information about the west coast environment within an easy-read story. Twigg says: “Her readership is international, her work remains uncompromising.”

     The Essentials is a reader-friendly volume that can easily be used as a teacher reference book for grades 7-12. The book presents known and unknown authors of fiction and nonfiction, biography and poetry in readable format with intriguing insights into the lives of B.C. writers.

Highly Recommended.

David Ward is a Canadian researcher and children’s author living in Oregon.

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

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