CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003
This book contains fifty brief biographies of interesting Canadians who were born during the period from Confederation in 1867 to 1945. It could be used either as a textbook or read for fun. The names of some of the people included such, as Lucy Maud Montgomery and Emily Carr may be well known to young readers. Others, such as Reginald Fessenden and Andrew Mynarski will likely be complete strangers, even to parents. The only criterion for inclusion is that the individuals made some contribution to the lives of others.
Canadians are often accused of feeling inferior to Americans. Many know more about prominent American historical figures than they do Canadian. Everyone who reads this book will be amazed at the breadth of Canadian achievement in the eighty-year period covered and no longer have a reason to feel inferior. These achievements include a wide variety of activities from long-distance running and poetry writing to piloting fighter aircraft. The achievers include such diverse individuals as politicians, painters, nurses, and inventors. Individually, each person selected for inclusion is interesting. Together, the fifty Canadians chosen form a fascinating group.
Barbara Hehner has made the writing of children's books her specialty. She writes with an infectious enthusiasm for her subjects. Few readers who pick up this book will be able to put it down until they are finished. It is written in a clear, forthright style that is very appealing. In addition, Hehner's knowledge of her subjects is thorough. In a short space, she captures the essence of each individual's personality as well as his/her achievements. Each chapter is illustrated with a black and white photograph of the featured person or a drawing where photographs are not available. These help the reader form a more complete picture than the simple biographical sketch allows.
In addition to teaching younger readers about interesting Canadians, Hehner explains terms with which many are probably not familiar. This is a valuable learning tool. Thus, her readers learn effortlessly that reciprocity means free trade, that someone in the army with a commission is an officer, and that a levee is a reception. By including such definitions in the body of the book, Hehner does prevent her readers from the necessity of using a dictionary. This could be considered a weakness, but it means that her readers do not have to interrupt their reading and lose the mental picture that has been created.
Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher living in North Bay, ON.
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