All About Canadian Geographical Regions – McDERMOTT; McKEOWN (CSS)

McDERMOTT, Barb; McKEOWN, Gail. All About Canadian Geographical Regions. Edmonton: Reidmore Books, 1999. 28p. Resenha de: DARLING, Linda Farr. Canadian Social Studies, v.37, n.1, 2002.

I’m always delighted to find engaging and informative nonfiction books for primary students. Children who are just beginning to read independently appreciate (and need) a wide variety of literature to explore. The All About Series was designed to give new readers a nonfiction reference series they can read, and to develop an awareness of what Canada is, and what it means to be Canadian. The first goal is fairly straightforward and not too hard to reach. The second is more complex and demanding, if only because there are so many different senses of what it means to be Canadian. Nevertheless, these seven paperbacks on Canada’s six geographical regions (and one overview on all of Canada) are sensibly organized, full of basic but generally important (and accurate) facts, along with unusually well-reproduced photographs and illustrations.

Each booklet (they range from 29-49 pages) is made to look like a series of postcards. On each page a color photograph or illustration is paired with descriptive text about the region. The booklets include geologic history and natural features, climate, flora and fauna, people and resource-based occupations, and more. Yes, this is a lot to cover, and that’s both the strength and a possible weakness of the set I saw. The sheer breadth and diversity of this country is truly amazing, and at times these small booklets strain at the seams to contain it. There is a detailed glossary and an index at the back of each book to offer helpful pointers, but young readers will still need the guidance of teachers and parents to make sense of the wealth of facts. Taken together, the books make a small encyclopedia on Canada’s regions.

The postcard theme could have been used to even better advantage as a focus for some of the information, which in its present form may simply be overwhelming for some young readers. Perhaps a young traveler could have been created to visit the six regions and write about what she noticed in particular. Or a resident of each region could speak about the place he calls home. Or, the authors could have scaled back their use of specialized vocabulary. Even with the excellent definitions presented at the back, there is quite a bit of new vocabulary in each booklet. This will challenge many, and frustrate some. But these are relatively small worries. In fact, just before reviewing the series, I was browsing in a local children’s bookstore and recognized their distinctive covers on a wall display. Two seven or eight year-old girls were flipping through The Cordillera and exclaiming about places that looked familiar, and a few that just looked awesome. Surely that’s the kind of endorsement the authors are looking for from their audience. Barb McDermott and Gail McKeown have given primary teachers of social studies a rare treat: a visually appealing, nicely produced, and above all, accurate geographical resource for curious learners.

Linda Farr Darling – Faculty of Education. University of British Columbia. Vancouver, B.C.

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