________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000

cover Imagine That!

Janet Wilson.
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Kids, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-7737-3221-7.

Subject Headings:
Twentieth century-Juvenile literature.
History, Modern-20th century-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten and up / Ages 5 and up.

Review by Val Nielsen.

**.5 /4

image Janet Wilson has a well-deserved reputation for her authentic artistic interpretations of Canadian historical picture books. Memorable images and meticulous research characterize her illustrations of stories such as Barbara Smucker's Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt (for which Wilson won the 1995 Elizabeth Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award) and its sequel, Selina and the Shoo-Fly Pie, as well as Linda Granfield's In Flanders' Fields, winner of two awards that same year. Imagine That! is the first book that Wilson has both written and illustrated. In it, the author-illustrator has taken on the challenge of creating an information picture book which is both a fact-filled reference volume and a search-and-find activity book.
    On her hundredth birthday, Auntie Violet reminisces with her great grand-niece, sharing her wonder at all the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Told in the first person from a centenarian's point of view, the main text is a conversation consisting of great Auntie Violet's "remembering when" as her great grandniece Elizabeth exhibits the curiosity and delight of a typical six-year-old. A colourful double-page montage highlighting the achievements and milestones of each decade of the 20th century surrounds Auntie Violet as she relates her memories. Sidebars consisting of historical facts arranged chronologically are not only colour-coded by decade, but they also are designed to match the colours of images in the montage.
    This last feature is probably the reason the publisher advertises Imagine That! as "... a fun search-and-find activity book ... a unique interactive experience." Unfortunately, several factors will almost certainly inhibit a young person's desire to use the book for this purpose. To begin with, there are just too many facts for most youngsters to want either to read themselves or listen to. Although the hundreds of small illustrations are beautifully drawn and historically accurate, an interactive "See if you can find the decade of the popsicle" type of game using the book as a reference would soon try the patience of a senior and the attention span of young child. The very small print in the fact-filled sidebars will deter both old and young eyes, while even independent readers would need an adult at their side to appreciate this book fully. Reminiscing is an activity best done face-to-face or on a lap (as Wilson's illustrations clearly show).
    The wealth of detail plus the organization of great events and achievements of the 20th century into themes such as technology, entertainment, food, fashion and medicine make Imagine That! an amazing picture book, but one that will have a good deal more appeal to adults over the age of fifty than to children. Teachers engaging their students in language arts or social studies themes dealing with growing old may find this book a useful resource. Older students asked to do projects on 20th century Canadian or world history, might, under the guidance of a teacher or librarian, make good use of the colour-coded sidebars to find important events and achievements of the last hundred years. In short, librarians are likely to find that Imagine That! will make a better research resource for upper elementary students than a read-aloud for younger children.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.

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