The Book of Canadians: An Illustrated Guide to Who Did What


240 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-88830-243-6





Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


This is an excellent book for children. It’s colourful and brightly organized. It covers a very wide range of Canadians, their personalities, and their achievements. John A. Macdonald and Edward Blake are here, of course, but so are a large number of all sorts of Canadians, prominent, past and present, in a universe of activities. Sharif Khan, “king of squash,” is on the same page as Kenojuak, the Inuit artist who in 1960 made from a stonecut one of Canada’s best known prints, Enchanted Owl.

The McGarrigles are here. So too are Alex Colville and Peter Gzowski. The short biographies are written in a brisk, no-nonsense style, as, for instance, Grenfell follows John Gray, Lorne Greene, and Nancy Greene, and precedes Earl Grey, Wayne Gretzky, Grey Owl, John Grierson, and Lionel-Adolphe Groulx.

The photos come from a very wide range of sources, and full credit must go to the author and the institutions she approached for assistance. The ones accompanying the items on Atwood and Clark (Joe), for instance, are much better than the ones the less industrious daily and weekly media shove at us.

There’s not even too much of a concentration in the present, an obvious trap to fall into with a book such as this. Of course, this is a “pop” form of history, but it sets out to stimulate rather than replace. And it does for Canadian history what the item on Madame Benoit says she did for Canadian food: it shows that it “need never be dull and can be delicious.”

The publishers say the book is designed for children from 8 to 14, but most people will agree that adults will enjoy dipping into it, too. Whether it’s just the chance discovery of who was the first typist in the West (E. Cora Hind) or filling in gaps in our historical knowledge, this is a fun book.


Hacker, Carlotta, “The Book of Canadians: An Illustrated Guide to Who Did What,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,