CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002
Rebels, Robert Livesey asserts in his introduction, are "people who object to, question, or defy the lawful or existing authority" (p. 1). Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and ending in the mid-twentieth, and encompassing a geographical stretch from Halifax to Vancouver Island, the author profiles many historical figures who embody his definition and have thereby helped shape Canada's national identity. Among those Canadians identified as rebels are Louis-Joseph Papineau, William Lyon Mackenzie, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Louis Riel, and Dr. James Barry (i.e., Miranda Stuart), and Nellie McClung. Livesey's examples demonstrate that rebels in Canada have been most successful when they "achieve change through peaceful means," rather than through violent, coercive measures (p. 1). Pleasantly, the book renders afresh a potentially stale subject. That is, although the narratives are of the standard, middle school social studies variety, Livesey recounts them under the label The Rebels, and thereby revitalizes their appeal. After all, individuals who live on the edge of propriety, who buck the status quo, make fascinating subjects. Also, the book's activities encourage readers to reflect upon what they have read, to consider how their social milieu compares to or contrasts with that of the characters. Publishing a newspaper or Web page, and designing Rebel trading cards are two of the five sections that provide aspiring young rebels with "Something To Do." In completing these constructive projects, readers further not just their knowledge of history, but their understanding as well. Apart from three maps (p. 4, 50, 65) - and one wishes there were more - A.G. Smith's black and white illustrations serve a primarily decorative purpose, the images deriving from the characters and plots established in and by words. One welcome exception is the drawing on pages 66-67 which depicts a native seated on a pack horse. The man gazes towards a steam train cutting a swath through a field and across his path at a perpendicular angle: two cultures fast approaching a crossroads. The page's edge cuts off the image of a buffalo skull, an omen that does not bode well for the rider's way of life.
In general, the book is easy to follow; nevertheless, it wants clarity and tighter organization in a few places. For instance, bold headings are used for the most part throughout the chapters, but towards the end of each chapter, underlined and italicized headings appear above short paragraphs. It is not clear why these informational bits are tagged on as standoffish afterthoughts rather than incorporated more smoothly into the text. Then, too, The Rebels concludes rather abruptly with a brief examination of the suffragist movement in its final chapter on "Social Rebels." An additional epilogue or summary chapter could have reaffirmed the book's overarching theme. Yet in other instances, attention to even the fine details is evident. The index, for example, alphabetically orders keywords in the six chapters under the six categories of "Activities," "Facts and Events," "Geographical References," "Maps and Illustrations," "Other," and "Personalities."
Ideal for classroom or home study, The Rebels makes history relevant to the current generation of students at a reasonable cost. Public and school libraries will want to acquire it for their collections as part of the "Discovering Canada" series.
Julie Chychota makes her home in Ottawa, ON.
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