Profiles 2: Authors and Illustrators, Children's Literature in Canada
Virginia Gillham is Associate Librarian in the Public Service Library at
the University of Guelph.
In Review, a journal of the Ontario government’s Library and Community Information Branch, had as its goal comprehensive reviewing of Canadian children’s literature. From its inception in 1967 to its unfortunate demise in 1982, it routinely reviewed all of the significant books for children produced by Canadians in Canada, and in addition, published profiles of the authors and illustrators whose work was reviewed.
In 1971 and 1975, the Canadian Library Association published two editions of Profiles 1, a volume which compiles 44 of these author-illustrator profiles. Profiles 2, published in 1982, adds sketches of another 45 personalities. The idea of creating reference tools which provide background information to support Canadian children’s literature is a good one. These volumes are particularly useful to librarians and others who work with this material beyond the level of pure entertainment.
Each sketch includes a picture of its subject, a factual outline of his life and career in about two pages, and a list of his children’s publications in reverse chronological order. When the subject of the sketch is an illustrator, sample illustrations are often included. Well-known authors such as Farley Mowat and Marian Engel, authors who are rapidly becoming well known such as Robert Munsch, and less known names are represented equally on the basis of their recent contributions to Canadian children’s literature. Sketches are arranged in alphabetical order, so the table of contents is, in fact, a name index.
The fact that these volumes pull together, apparently with no revision, pieces written by a variety of authors at different times creates a situation which can be unsettling to the reader. An uneven quality of writing is clearly present, and the differing original publication dates of the various sketches cause the currency of the information to vary as well. Finally, a jarringly personal writing style which allows the author to intrude on the page in the first person — i.e., “I hope [this author] stays put”; “the writings of my sister...”; “I wonder how [this author] will ever have enough time...” — creates an unprofessional style.
These volumes are, altogether, useful and enlightening reference tools whose amateurish overtones would benefit from a more stringent editorial policy.