CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 4 . . . . October 20, 2000
The Spirit of Canada: Canada's Story in Legends, Fiction, Poems and Songs.
Barbara Hehner, Editor.
Toronto, ON: Malcolm Lester Books, 1999.
306 pp., cloth, $45.00.
Canadian literature (English).
Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.
Review by Val Nielsen.
In this outstanding anthology of Canadian legend, fiction, poems and songs, editor Barbara
Hehner has undertaken to convey to readers "... how it felt to be alive at a particular time and
place in Canadian history, experiencing moments of joy, wonderment, fear, dejection, or
triumph." In The Spirit of Canada, these moments are often described by the people
experiencing them, as they are in a letter from Jean de Brebeuf giving advice to would-be
missionaries in Suzanna Moodie's words of desperation after losing her cabin to fire or in
Shizuye Takashima's recollection of her childhood in a prison camp. In other selections, modern
writers bring events and emotions of the Canada's past to life, as in an excerpt from Suzanne
Martel's novel, The King's Daughters, or in Paul Yee's story, "Spirits of the Railway," taken
from Tales from the Gold Mountain. Hehner has been careful to balance famous and
little-known pieces in her anthology. Readers will be glad to find old favourites, such as "The
Cremation of Sam McGee," "In Flanders Fields" and the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," sharing
space with Stella Whelan's haunting lament for Demasduwit, a Beothuk woman captured in 1819
and renamed "Mary March" and Nancy Prasad's empathetic "You Have Two Voices," a
celebration of mother-tongue fluency.
The Spirit of Canada has more than one hundred fully illustrated selections with one hundred
and fifty original pieces of artwork by fifteen of Canada's most celebrated children's artists,
including Zhong-Yang Huang, Don Kilby, George Littlechild, Bill Slavin and Janet Wilson.
Three-dimensional illustrations created by Kim Fernandez for the "Animals Wild and Mild" and
the "Just for Laughs" sections of the book are a spectacular visual treat.
In this beautiful volume, Barbara Hehner, editor of The Story of Canada (1992 winner of the
Mr. Christie Award) has stitched together a fabulous literary and artistic quilt for readers of all
ages. Her book, vast in scope as Canada itself, is divided into eight historically chronological
sections with sub-sections, beginning with four stories from our Native peoples, entitled "When
the World Was New." The book then moves to "The New Found Land, " with selections on
explorers, New France and the Northwest. Part Three, entitled "Creating a Country," deals with
rebels and freedom seekers, Part Four or "The New Nation" includes topics such as railway
builders, seafarers and pioneering in the west. Under Part Five, entitled "Imagination," the reader
finds tall tales and ghost stories. Part Six , "Canada's Century," begins with "O Canada" and
includes sections on the wars, the Dirty Thirties and the French-English problem (this last under
the heading "Why Can't We Talk to One Another?"). Sports, animals wild and mild, and a "Just
for Laughs" section make up the "Fun and Games" of Part Seven, while Part Eight, entitled
"From Far and Wide" is given over to a celebration of the immigrant experience, a version of
"the Canadian mosaic" which Hehner likens to a kaleidoscope with each piece constantly
shifting and overlapping to form new designs.
Each selection in The Spirit of Canada is introduced with a historical or cultural note. Capsule
biographies of the writers and illustrators, plus a well-organized index, round off the volume,
ensuring its place in a list of top quality Canadian resources for the young reader or researcher.
The Spirit of Canada is a treasure and a "must have" for all school libraries. Art, music,
language arts and social studies teachers will find the book a wonderful resource for integrating
their subjects as well as inspiring students to read and write and sing about this land of theirs.
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - October 20, 2000.
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