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Friday, November 11, 2016

Canada Year by Year, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Sydney Smith. Kids Can Press, 2016. $21.95 ages 10 and up

"1970 October Crisis

In the 1960s, some people wanted Quebec to be independent from Canada. Among them was a group called the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ), which began setting off bombs in Montreal. Their terrorist actions killed 6 people and injured at least 40."

Here's a book for building your Canada collection for older kids, as we get even closer to celebrating Canada's 150th birthday! Elizabeth MacLeod has chosen one important event for each year since Confederation. It might just inspire future historians to do some research of their own, and try their hand at this same type of text.

There are 10 chapters, and the book is arranged chronologically from 1867, beginning with A New Country 1867-1884 and ending with Great Canadians. The topics that the author has chosen to share show the wide variety that is the experience of those who have lived in Canada during those years.

"Throughout its long history, Canada has been a place where people have come to make their homes. Before becoming its own country, it was part of the French colonies called New France, and later part of the British colonies of British North America. Even today, about 250,000 newcomers arrive in Canada each year, bringing skills that help make the country a better place to be."

There are so many things to include: medicine, 'firsts', music, art, education, sports, literature, and politics, to name some of them. Canadians have been to war, participated in strikes, fought for the right of women to vote, written remarkable music, produced brilliant films, developed festivals to celebrate our multiculturalism, put aboriginal children in residential schools, showed racism ... many of our triumphs and our tragedies are shared here.

The text is written with a personal touch, making it easy for middle graders to access and assimilate. As I was reading it today, I found myself turning to the pages that describe our involvement in wartime conflicts. I read about life in the trenches, the inventor of the gas mask, John McCrae, Vimy Ridge, the Somme, the Halifax Explosion, the Battle of Britain, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum (located right here in Brandon) and so much more.

This is another of those 'browsing' books, so needed for reluctant readers and for those who love to read factual information. It will find many fans, and deserves a place in our classrooms and libraries where interested readers can have a look at our history with pride and a boost of understanding.

Sidebars, quotes, trivia, mini-biographies and timelines are interesting highlights, as is the final list of some very special Canadians. Of course, people, events, places are left out. If not, it would not be a book that gives readers a sense of the heritage that is so special to those who call themselves Canadian. It would be cumbersome and daunting. What it does is encourage readers to look further and see what else they might discover about Canada on their own.

Put it on your desk as we approach January 1, 2017 and see what your students can discover about their home before the calendar turns to a new year.

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