A Canoe Trip.
Writers/Editors: Bobbie Kalman, Tammie Everts, David Schimpky, Samantha
Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.
A CANOE TRIP is a visually appealing book -- a sort of coffee-table book for the eight to eleven set. It appears to be primarily promotional material for the children's camp system of Ontario.
The book is well laid-out and organized, with a table of contents and index, and a vocabulary section that defines important but uncommon words. A Canoe Trip emphasizes safety and environmental awareness throughout, with practical suggestions on how to deal with potentially dangerous situations (like fires or encounters with bears).
Along with teaching the basic parts of a canoe, the book explains the two basic strokes used in canoeing, the sweep and the J-stroke. Fun is emphasized throughout, and the main group of boys pictured certainly seem to be having fun.
The major drawback to A Canoe Trip is that it lacks a clear target and purpose. The cover suggests it's for young children, but the pictures include young people up to the teen years. The language used varies in the same manner.
The book suggests that children will go a week-long camp, yet the suggested list of food and supplies would not last more than a few days. And though the book stresses safety throughout, it fails to address the effects of being on the water in the bright sun: there is one casual mention of a sun-screen, but nothing about sunglasses, or the importance of having enough water in the canoe to prevent dehydration. The same applies to insect repellent.
This lack of realism extends to situations such as portaging. According to A Canoe Trip, "Portaging is a welcome rest from paddling." One wonders how these canoes were moved, because there's no mention of who moved them or how.
Though it was good to include a practical section on what to do if you wander off on your own and become lost, it would have been better if they'd included the whistle the child is supposed to use to be found in the supply list. Similarly, though the illustrations show marshmallows, canned beans, and some sort of hot drink, none of these items are included on the food list.
It's difficult to understand why a book of this kind, published in the nineties, has such a preponderance of males in the photographs. It's also hard to understand why the authors still use imperial rather than metric measurements in their instructions.
To sum up, this book lacks a focus; there are too many words for a coffee-table book, but certainly not enough information to prepare a child to go on a real canoe trip. Not unless they were to sign up with one of those excellent camps in Ontario. A Canoe Trip does, however, look beautiful.
Recommended with reservations -- well packaged, but lacking in substance.
William F. Benson is a school psychologist in Nanaimo, British Columbia with interests in athletics and the outdoors.
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