Contains Photos, Maps, Index
This series on Canada’s three territories and 10 provinces is targeted at primary/junior students (grade 3 and above). Each 24-page book follows a rigid pattern of examining common features in extremely brief sections on specific pages (flags, places to visit, beautiful landscapes, wildlife and resources, history and culture) and ends with a trio of recommended websites, a short glossary, and an index.
This series fits Alberta’s curriculum for grades 4 and 5 and matches the Ontario curriculum for grade 4 within the Social Studies strand Canada and World Connections). For those reasons, the Canada’s Land and People series will likely be welcomed by teachers desperately seeking print resources for younger readers (a similar series by the American publisher Chelsea House was really directed at an older audience, and those volumes are increasingly out of date). So putting a 24-page item in the hands of a junior-aged group charged with investigating the history and geography of PEI—that has more information on Aboriginal peoples than it does on Anne of Green Gables—should reduce excessive reliance on unreliable websites and lead to better culminating tasks. It might be worth mentioning here that there are some suggested classroom activities on page 4 of each volume (these typically involve making a mace out of toilet paper rolls rather than Nunavut’s narwhal tusk, or designing a new flag for British Columbia, or making a seal to represent the student’s own family), and near the end of each book there is a “Test Your Knowledge” category with a handful of questions (“What is Manitoba’s nickname?”).
While recognizing that producing a usable resource for young students calls for many trade-offs, the end result here may sometimes surprise bright grade 4 students. For example, there are maps, which Weigl Publishers describe as “detailed,” but often they are not (the main one for Ontario, for instance, has a blurb on Algonquin Park that unfortunately blocks out much of northeastern Ontario, and Watson Lake in Yukon Territory suffers the same fate because of a poorly placed scale bar). Residents of Quebec might be surprised to find that street signs there are “written in French and English” and Nova Scotia’s “Sports and Activities” includes a full-page stock photo of 1980s lacrosse players (and field ones at that!)—a game really centred in Ontario and British Columbia. With provinces now creating explicit curriculum documents on environmental education, the failure to even mention issues with oil sands tailing ponds in the Alberta volume, or offer any sort of real discussion of the collapse of the East Coast fishery in the four books on the Atlantic provinces, is disappointing. Lastly, a short section on important personages (rather than two pages of unattributed quotations in the “What Others Are Saying” category) would have made these more useful resources (the volume on Newfoundland and Labrador omits any mention of Joseph Smallwood, and the Saskatchewan one has absolutely nothing on Tommy Douglas).
But these are quibbles really for a series that must be recommended for use in junior classrooms. Students will find these to be a colourful and useful starting point for their research into Canada’s various provinces and territories.