Monday, June 25, 2012

Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers (Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic)

This book ROCKS (True Story!)
This is "An amazing journey of discovery across Canada" and oh my! is it ever!  Its format is one of a traditional picture book with a sweet, family-centric story: Gran is taking nine-year-old Alice and eight-year-old Cal on a road trip across Canada. Starting in St. John's, Newfoundland and spanning every colourful, glorious province, this literary road trip ends in Nunavut with a great trek up to Iqaluit.

As well as providing young readers with a wonderful geographical and cultural snapshot of the great land, "Hey Canada!" will immediately instil a sense of pride for our diverse terrain and our even more diverse culture and heritage.  Like the best picture books, "Hey Canada!" does well at remaining current and speaking to current mediums such as tweets; but it doesn't do away with history altogether.  As well as introducing children to the landscape, heritage, landmarks and wildlife of each province (a collection of photographs and illustrations make the book come alive), it also inserts an acute sense of continuing history: whether through snippets and tales (such as a paragraph about the Privateers' Warehouse in Halifax Harbour) or a comic book (such as one recounting life at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton circa 1745 and a recap of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham).

"Hey Canada!" is also funny: the author has a wonderfully silly sense of humour which makes the road trip as enjoyable for Cal and Alice as it will be for young readers and even includes "Hamster Updates": a continual check-in on Cal's rapscallion and furry friend.

There is a perfect balance of fact, dialogue and illustration (or photograph) on each page to keep children enticed and interested.  If I were a school teacher I would have a heyday incorporating this into a geography, social studies or history curriculum: for not only does it provide ample opportunities for segway into numerous multi-disciplinary conversations, it also allows students to speak passionately about their history and heritage.  As they traipse through Canada with Cal and Alice, I am sure their personal history, their family ties and heritage and even memories of similar road trips will abound.

A few favourite moments:
Also, the Plains of Abraham segment is HILARIOUS!  Last year, a few friends and I were in Quebec on May 2-4 weekend (how Canadian is THAT sentence) and we spotted people engaging with history the same way Gran and Cal and Alice are: namely seeing a ton of gophers, eating picnics and, well, not quite remembering that the entirety of the Battle which formed our nation took little more than a few moments.  Further, I loved Cal's Tweet from PEI: because I did not actually know that PEI (famous for its potatoes) housed more than 70 different kinds of spuds! (who'da thunk? )  In the Newfoundland and Labrador section ( featuring one of my favourite provinces and travel spots in Canada), I was all tickled pink with the "Find It!" section ( kids will notice this feature throughout the book).   Here, Cal, Gran and Alice figure they can't leave the Rock until they've seen AT LEAST The following: Cod, Moose, Atlantic Ocean, Iceberg, Puffins! Awesome.
I'm learning history through COMICS? AAaammmaaazing!

I can say, quite assuredly, that this is the best book of its kind I have seen.  It houses it all: it would be a PERFECT gift for a boy or girl living in another country ( and perhaps planning a first time trip to the Great White North), it would be a great book to take with you if your family (like mine ) spent hours in a car traveling through the badlands and beyond ( we did 16 hour trips in our van!  Sorry, Saskatchewan, you weren't AS interesting ---well, your fields of wheat sure weren't---by hour 10) making historical stops along the way.  It features an easy index, a colourful map reminding kids of some of the symbols of each province they have seen( cleverly without including the Provincial name so that hopefully they can recount what they've learned in their tour and name each Province from East to West and back), and it includes a page on the Flags of Canada.  "Hey Canada!" is one of those rare books that is equally educational and fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, it realizes that our country is one of quirky and colourful heritage and it revels in the beauty of our landscape and the diversity of our culture.

I have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively in our great country and I say, quite often, that Canadians make a grand mistake by trekking off to other places (I'm looking at you, Florida) before seeing what we have in store. After a romp through this exceptionally visual and entertaining book, I wouldn't be surprised if kids tugged at their parents' sleeves to see if their next family vacation could be to something nationally awesome like the Dinosaur Parks in Southern Alberta ( Gran's poem about dinos is included in the book ) or Buffalo Jump (which my brother and sister and I LOVED when we were kids and which is included here).

It's a grand country, let's let our children know it: let's take them near and far and, pending that next big vacation, give them a glimpse into the best country in the world by showing them this colourful kaleidoscope of history and fun!

I received this awesome book for review from the publisher, Tundra Books.  Check out the other stops on the Hey Canada! blog tour . Use the hashtag #heycanada to talk it up on twitter and even follow Cal-- a fictional character with a twitter account! Please go buy it NOW!

1 comment:

Kailana said...

It does look fun!!