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Noteworthy Books with Canadian Historical Themes

English Titles

Pettranella Pettranella
Betty Waterton
Illustrations: Ann Blades
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1990, ©1980, 27 p.
ISBN 0888991088
Ages 5 to 8

Cover reproduced by permission of Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

A little girl named Pettranella and her parents leave a crowded European mill town to settle on a homestead in wide-open Manitoba. Pettranella's sadness at leaving her beloved Grandma is somewhat softened by Grandma's parting gift: a little bag of old-country seeds to plant in remembrance of her and the homeland. Without mention of date, the simple prose and naive illustrations easily convey an image of life long ago. From the rows of tall stone houses in the old country to the small log cabin in the new land, this charming picture book is packed with visual and written references to times past which both inform and entertain.

Pit Pony Pit Pony
Joyce Barkhouse
Illustrations: Henry Van Der Linde
Toronto: Gage Educational, 1990, 116 p.
ISBN 0771570236
Ages 8 to 12
Cover reproduced by permission of Henry Van Der Linde.

Wee Willie is only 11 years old when coal-mining injuries to his father and brother force him down into the mines as the family's sole breadwinner. He would rather be working with horses, or even in school, but the harsh realities of life in a company mining town in Cape Breton at the turn of the century forestall his aspirations and dash his hopes. This bleak scenario is offset by the caring relationships, which are at the heart of this optimistic story, between Willie and his family, his friends and a very special pony. They set the tone for this highly informative and most enjoyable novel.

Raven's Cry Raven's Cry
Christie Harris
Illustrations: Bill Reid
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press,
1992, ©1966, 194 p.
ISBN 1550540556
Ages 12 and up
Cover reproduced by permission of Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Covering 200 years of Haida history, this fictionalized retelling explores the impact of European culture on the fortunes of the once proud and powerful Haida nation. Told entirely from the Aboriginal perspective, the story opens in the spring of 1775 with two young Haida boys scanning the horizon for the rumoured "flying canoes". The boys are secure in their place in the world and in the future, but the arrival of the Europeans, with their firearms, deadly diseases, and single-minded avariciousness, changes everything. At the end of the book, the author anticipates a future where the accomplishments of contemporary Haida artists such as Bill Reid (whose illustrations adorn this book) may force a recognition and an honest understanding of the glories of the Haida people and their culture. The revised edition includes an analysis of the book and the Haida culture by Robert Davidson and Margaret B. Blackman.

Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt
Barbara Smucker
Illustrations: Janet Wilson
Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1995, 32 p.
ISBN 0773729925 (bound), 0773758372 (paperback)
Ages 6 to 9
When Selina's Mennonite family moves to Upper Canada to escape the death and destruction of the American Civil War, Grandmother gives Selina a Bear Paw quilt (reproduced on the book's endpapers). The scraps of cloth in Selina's quilt come from her own baby clothes, her aunt's favourite dress, and even her Grandmother's wedding dress. A link across the miles and between the generations, it is truly a precious memento which eases the heartache of so abrupt a move. This gorgeous picture book looks back in time to celebrate the importance of family history and traditions.

Soldier Boys Soldier Boys
David Richards
Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1993, 254 p.
ISBN 1895449065
Ages 11 to 15
Cover reproduced by permission of Thistledown Press (1992).

The events leading to the Riel Rebellion come alive in this well-written historical novel which follows the fortunes of a bugle boy with the Winnipeg Rifles and a Métis boy on the other side of the conflict. Tom Kerslake is seeking glory and adventure. Luc Goyette wants to preserve the traditions of his family and culture. They meet, as opponents, at the end of the book, in the battle of Fish Creek. This dramatic confrontation, coupled with the wealth of historic detail throughout the book, contributes to a fascinating study not only of an important period in Canadian history but also of war itself.

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Date Created: 2001-05-29
Date Modified: 2002-09-25

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