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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hey Canada, written by Vivien Bowers and illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. Tundra, 2012. $21.99 ages 7 and up

"Of course, we tried panning for gold. We scooped sand from the river bottom into our pan. Swirled it around. Sloshed off the top stuff. And looked for the gold nuggets that sink to the bottom. I struck gold! My chunk is about the size of a grain of sand. Gran needed to put on her reading glasses to see it. I'm rich."

Of course, I flipped straight to Manitoba to see what readers would be learning about my province. While it is one of the smaller provinces and right smack in the middle of the country, we are very proud of all we have to offer visitors. I was sorry not to see anything about Brandon (not a criticism, just local pride) but pleased about the places she did include.

Using her previous books about Canada, and making them more accessible for younger readers, Vivien Bowers has written a cross-country adventure that begins in St. John's NF and almost does a full circle back to Ottawa, our capital city. It's a very long trip. Canada is a huge country! Most of the trip is by car; the final leg from Inuvik to Whitehorse to Iqaluit and finally back to Ottawa is by plane...for good reason.  

Gran and her grandchildren, Alice and Cal make the eventful and informative trek. Alice is the first person narrator and she keeps us up on the action as they move from place to place, learning and sharing that learning. Each province and territory gets its own chapter, and helps younger readers focus their attention one place at a time. I like the personal guide feel of the narration and the conversational tone. Ms. Bowers has a knack for giving just enough is never overwhelming.

Using tweets, historical episodes done in comic book style, factoids, search and find boxes, humorous hamster updates, and including actual photographs (often inset with the three travelers), maps, provincial flowers and birds, and an illustration of each province makes it useful for those studying Canada. There are even a few poems, penned by Gran and a list of instructions that she intends to be followed as they spend long hours on the road:

"Rules for Well-Behaved Children

1. No whining.
2. No asking "Are we there yet?"
(If you do, I will start to sing opera. Loudly.)
3. No wildlife in the car. (Except hamsters.)
4. Feed the driver cookies.

Seems simple, and likely to keep tempers from flaring.

Lots to learn and enjoy for children who want to make the trip with Gran, Alice and Cal. As with any nonfiction, new information will lead to updates. Just a suggestion, it might have been useful to have the flags on the page for each province that included the flower and bird. It would have added dimension without readers having to go back and forth, once discovered at trip's end.

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