________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 15 . . . . March 30, 2001

"The Kids Book of" Series.

Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2000.
48 pp., cloth, $18.95.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4



The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built.

Deborah Hodge. Illustrated by John Mantha.
ISBN 1-55074-526-3.

Subject Heading:
Railroads-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.


The Kids Book of the Far North.

Ann Love and Jane Drake. Illustrated by Jocelyne Bouchard.
ISBN 1-55074-563-8.

Subject Headings:
Arctic regions-Juvenile literature.
Arctic peoples-Juvenile literature.

This impressive pair of books that will provide elementary-age children with solid factual information about different subject areas. The books' creators are to be credited not only for wanting to document events, but also for dealing frankly with historical injustices caused by encroachment of European civilization. The books are organized by subject area, with indexes and tables of contents. The layout on each page is appealing, with text interspersed by accurate illustrations. One note of complaint: original photographs would convey the hardships faced by the railway workers far better than an illustration can. Similarly, people who live in the North are more tangible to children through a photograph than a drawn illustration. The two forms could have been combined for a more realistic and educational presentation.

The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built.


Navvies in the east blasted through some of the hardest, oldest rock in the world, the Canadian Shield. The work north of Lake Superior was so difficult that Van Horne called it "200 miles of engineering impossibility." As well as rock, there were huge stretches of muskeg - deep boggy patches that sometimes swallowed entire stretches of track.
image The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built is a book for fans either of Canadian history or trains. It documents the mammoth task of constructing a railway across an unknown and unfriendly terrain. It talks honestly about the issues involved and the consequences of the decisions made that still have ramifications today. The decision to build a trans-continental railway across Canada shaped our country. Without it, the West would likely have been annexed to the U.S. Brought about through the grunting labour of tens of thousands of men, it was an engineering marvel. The workers faced the gravest of hardships and the possibility of death every day while earning a bare living and fulfilling the dreams of the eastern politicians. Based on who the workers were, their difficulties were compounded. Even the navvies had a class system based on the perceptions of those days. The English-speaking workers were given responsibilities to work with machinery, while the European workers and the Chinese were assigned the more dangerous and unpredictable jobs. The Chinese were charged a headtax for the right to work in Canada. Because of their race, they were paid less, were segregated in the work camps, and were assigned to risk avalanches and remove rock from blasting sites. It is estimated that at least one worker died for every mile of railway that was built. The realities of the construction are well documented.

      Canada was not an unpopulated territory, and the construction of the railway was a major factor in the destruction of the Aboriginal societies that had lived here for thousands of years. The railway brought European settlers, destruction of the buffalo herds, and the Northwest Mounted Police who crushed the rebellions of the Aboriginal and Metis peoples and herded them onto inhospitable reserves. To this day, Canada's native peoples are still experiencing the consequences of the decision to build the railway.

      Author Deborah Hodge also shows the details of trains and track construction and maintenance, steam and diesel engines and the story of train transportation up to today. The challenges created by a vast territory, harsh weather systems and complicated geography are discussed, along with how engineers figured out how to deal with them and make the system run. Interesting historical tidbits, such as school trains, relief trains and silk trains, are also mentioned.

      Cities and towns came into being because of the existence of the railway. Trains carried electioneering politicians through the land, men looking for work in the 1930's and men going to war. Trains carried and still carry grain, raw materials and manufactured goods in massive quantities, although they form only part of a larger transportation network today, which includes trucks. Railway companies were political and economic forces themselves. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians worked for the railways as they expanded their operations with the changing times. While today the railways are not the major force they once were, they are still hauling goods and people across the country. The role of the railway in Canada is an integral part of our history.

      Accurate illustrations will keep children looking at and reading the very readable text. A glossary of old railway terms at the end of the book will satisfy the curiosity of kids, young and old. This book would make an excellent gift or form part of a school collection.

The Kids Book of the Far North.


A modern hunter reads the waters, land and weather like a well-loved story. He almost always knows where he is and what's going on. He notices unusual details and can predict what lies ahead. This ability to read the natural world comes from traditional knowledge passed on from the elders and from personal experience. Because Inuit hunting families must keep moving to find food, their knowledge covers all sorts of conditions over vast areas of northern Canada or Greenland.

For much of the twentieth century, the Canadian government forced Inuit children to attend residential schools far from home. They were not at home to live and learn a hunting life from their elders. Today, few Inuit hunt full-time, but many hunt at least part of the year.

image The Kids Book of the Far North is a wonderfully informative book about life above the tree line. The book discusses all the important aspects of the life of the people, the animals and the vegetation that survive in the harshest environment on the face of the planet. The climate is the defining factor in the Far North, a region shared by Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The different indigenous peoples who live in these countries have adapted in different ways. The book explores their history, traditional beliefs (two folktales are included) and methods of survival. Timelines show how human activity evolved from the time of the Ice Age, when hunters tracked mammoths for food. The impact of European contact, distance, pollution from the south and the pressures of the modern world are dealt with as well. "Day-in-the-life" stories give southern children an idea of how life is for children in the Far North. Interesting details about the physical environment give the reader a full picture of the Arctic landscape. Fact boxes, bulleted lists and captions add to the information. The wildlife and vegetation are richly illustrated.

      The table of contents divides the material into easy to follow sections of two pages each. The large-size format of the book allow for a large amount of text and illustrations on each page. The Kids Book of the Far North would be a great read for an interested child and would provide lots of information for a research project.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364