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. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001
Carlotta Hacker's brief look at six (seven if you count both Banting and Best) Canadian scientists and an even briefer look at thirteen more may be helpful in some collections. The style is much like the A&E network's approach to biographies: upbeat, folksy, and incomplete. As an additional source for a research paper, this title may be helpful.
The main scientists profiled are Frederick Banting and Charles Best, Roberta Bondar, Birute Gladikas, Michael Smith, Denis St-Onge, and David Suzuki. It is hard to determine why this group was chosen (in spite of the explanation in the "Introduction"). There is lots of information available at this level on Banting, Best, Bondar and Suzuki, and so nothing new can really be added and what is written about the remaining three just scratches the surface.
The text is organized into segments. Some information is found in boxes such as a list of "Key Events" which enumerates the dates of important events in the lives of these scientists. Other information presented in boxes includes a story from the scientist's childhood and one called "Backgrounder" where some brief information is given on "Diabetes" in the case of Banting and Best, or "The Space Program" for Roberta Bondar. The remaining information is given in chronological narrative. The use of these segments or boxes should interest students who like this style, but there are not so many that readers will get lost. The book is well written and will appeal to the age group for whom it is intended.
This reviewer is not an expert on the lives of these scientists nor in the art of biography writing, but I wanted a more consistent approach to each scientist. For example, it is noted that Michael Smith (deceased since publication) was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, but the book omits mentioning that Charles Best received the same honour and that Bondar, Suzuki, St-Onge and Gladikas are all Officers of the Order of Canada. On the other hand, this book will probably be used as a reference book, as opposed to a recreational read, with students sampling bits and pieces here and there. Yet, if information about one of the scientists is included in that individual's article and omitted in another's, it may lead readers to believe, as in the case of the Order of Canada, that the other scientists did not receive the honour.
This book was interesting reading, but, as noted above, a more consistent approach to the information provided would improve the overall usefulness of this title. The glossary, index, list for further reading and short paragraphs about thirteen other Canadian scientists are a bonus.
Recommended with Reservations.
Ruth McMahon worked as a professional librarian for 13 years and is currently co-chairing Alberta's Rocky Mountain Book Award.
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