________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000

cover Learning with Literature in the Canadian Elementary Classroom.

Joyce Bainbridge and Sylvia Pantaleo.
Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 1999.
268 pp., pbk., $39.95.
ISBN 0-88864-330-6.

Subject Headings:
Children's literature, Canadian (English)-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Children's literature, Canadian (English)-History and criticism.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4

Canadian instructors of children's literature, grad students, pre-service teachers and classroom teachers are always faced with two major frustrations when it comes to finding a comprehensive professional resource to support the study of this topic: the exorbitant cost of a such a resource and the decidedly American slant of these published text books, few giving space to our Canadian books worthy of recognition, and, in most cases, with only a brief nod to Canadian awards in children's literature. So it was with a cheer of gratitude and great eagerness that this reviewer tackled the $39.95 Learning With Literature in the Canadian Elementary Classroom.

In many ways this book did not disappoint. It is well-conceived, eminently readable and very suitable to the study and teaching of Children's Literature. Each chapter begins with objectives, setting the organizational tone and purpose and guiding the reader. Several chapters feature a "Reflection Box" which not only encourages readers to contemplate their experiences with literature and reading but also promotes further discussion. Many vignettes of classroom reading experiences are incorporated, and, of special importance, is the inclusion of well-written, concise and interesting "side bars" devoted to Canadian authors and illustrators.

Chapters 2-6 cover the literary genres of Picture Books, Traditional Literature, Poetry, Novels, Multi-Cultural Literature and Non-fiction. Clear definitions, characteristics of the different types and excellent examples of each genre are included. Following each chapter are references, a repertoire of annotated "Professional Resources" and a listing of books within each category. The remaining three chapters explore different reader response theories, including the teachers' role, and several instructional strategies, including program ideas and the use of reading interests. The authors also touch upon some timely cautions and concerns with regard to response journals. The last chapter offers great advice for organizing a classroom for literature programs. The Appendix contains a comprehensive list of Canadian Children's Book Awards, including local, provincial awards and useful Web Sites.

Brainbridge and Pantaleo recognize the trend in many Canadian classrooms which favours Literature-Based Language Arts instruction and agree that, "with a careful choice of books and appropriate instruction," children can learn to read as well as become avid readers from well-written and creatively illustrated trade books.

Of minor concern was the disappointment that Poetry was not deserving of a separate chapter and instead was "lumped in" with traditional stories. Missing from this chapter is a bibliography of suggested "folk tales."

The authors successfully walk the line between the preface's statement that it is "highly important for Canadian Children to have access to the many fine Canadian books" and "that our children also need to read about other places" beyond our borders, with their excellent and thorough discussion of multicultural and transcultural literature. But even with the considerable space given to our rich, diverse selection of Canadian Picture and Non-Fiction books, this reviewer would have welcomed an even greater use, emphasis and reference to more Canadian books as examples in the other genres.


Reesa Cohen, an Instructor in Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, is also an Education and Information Services Consultant.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364