CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 18. . . . May 9, 2003
As the subtitle suggests, this book is about Canada's national anthem, but only the concluding four pages actually deal directly with factual information about the song's words and music. One of these quartet of pages is given over to providing the song's music and words (both in English and French). The following page, complete with a photographic portrait, briefly profiles Calixa Lavallée who, in 1880, at the age of 37, was asked by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec to compose a tune for an upcoming official banquet. The next page features Adolphe Routhier, a poet, who was asked by the same Lieutenant Governor to write a poem to accompany the music Lavallee was creating.
The final of the four page explains how the present day English version came about and focuses particularly on the role played by Robert Stanley Weir whose 1908 words are still the foundation of today's English version. Photographic portraits both of Lavallée and Weir are provided on their respective pages.
The 26 pages leading up to these final four pages are a photographic rendering or interpretation of the English words to the song. (Note: a French language version of the book is available.) Each pair of facing pages contains a phrase from the song and usually two or three full color photographs to represent the words. For example, the images portraying "Our home and native land!" capture Canada's diversity with one image showing farmers' fields and another an urban skyscape while the third photograph reveals Canada's racial diversity. "The True North strong and free!" is represented by the northern lights, a pair of polar bears and a snowboarder who is soaring in the air. In total, the photographic images truly do capture the various diversities of this nation which stretches from sea to sea. Given the overall fine visual quality of the book, it is most unfortunate that the end papers were left blank.
The book has numerous potential audiences. Public and school libraries serving children of all ages should possess at least one copy. Teachers could use the book as a springboard to inviting their students to suggest other images which would give visual interpretations of the song's words. Adults who are looking for a gift that will represent Canada to those not of this country would be well served by O Canada: Our National Anthem.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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