The Toronto Story


166 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55037-763-9
DDC j971.3'541





Illustrations by Johnny Wales
Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is the
author of several books, including The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese
Women’s Lives, Kurlek and Margaret Laurence: T


This unusual history of a city takes the long view. It begins boldly but
briefly with the thousands of years that preceded human settlement,
years that began with ice and silence, and moves forward slowly to after
the Big Thaw, when the area was occupied by herds of bison, musk oxen,
and human hunter-gatherers, then on to the last two centuries. In the
late 18th century, John Graves Simcoe was made lieutenant-governor of
the new Province of Upper Canada. Under Simcoe, the area changed “from
trees to tents to frontier town.” There was a weekly newspaper, The
Upper Canada Gazette, and “The Blue School” grew to become Jarvis

The vast time span could easily have resulted in confusion, but readers
are kept focused with clever selection and formatting, large print in
different colors, and numerous mostly small illustrations but also a few
double-page spreads. The reader-friendly result resembles sound bites
spiced with humor and anecdote.

In just over 200 years, Toronto has grown into a metropolis of some
three million people, and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is now nearing
five million. Capturing the changes that went on at such a pace is a
difficult task, but Mackay and Wales manage to make it look easy. The
Toronto Story could be a school text, a bedside book, or a coffee-table
decoration. It is truly a book for all ages and a task well done. Highly


Mackay, Claire., “The Toronto Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,