CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000
K is for kanata. Many people believe Canada got its name from this word. Kanata is a Huron-Iroquois word meaning "village." In 1535, a French explorer named Jacques Cartier sailed along the St. Lawrence River and claimed all the land that he saw for France. According to a popular legend, he met a group of Iroquois on the shore of the river and asked them what they called their land. Pointing to their village, they replied "kanata." Cartier misunderstood the Iroquois and called all the land he claimed "Canada." The name did not become official until Confederation.Part of the AlphaBasiCs series, these three titles each offer brief, general overviews of the countries they represent. Topics range from major landmarks - both natural and manmade - to history, culture and the flora and fauna of the nation, but the emphasis is on the people. Often, a sidebar or highlighted box contains facts in brief - the national symbol, animal, flower, coat-of-arms and flag. Almost all entries cover a single page; a few are double-page spreads. Text is large and simply written, using fairly short, clipped sentences and kid-friendly vocabulary. There is some use of considerate text as well. One drawback of the title on Mexico is its lack of a pronunciation guide or phonetic spelling after a particularly difficult Spanish word. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are included.
Several strengths are evident in these titles. Each book contains abundant, colored maps, photographs and historical paintings, all of which are labelled and well suited to the text. In the photographs, both genders and many different cultures are represented, providing a good balance. Females are often shown in non-traditional roles. As well, all of the books follow the same format, and each one has a unifying element. For example, the featured letter of the alphabet is superimposed on a symbol of the country (a Canadian beaver, an American flag, a Mexican sombrero); a border across the top of each page continues the theme (maple leaves, tiny U.S. flags, an Aztec pattern).
These attractive books, with their bright, colourful photos and quick snippets of information, will appeal to young researchers and are especially suitable for visual learners whose reading skills prevent them from choosing more challenging material.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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