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My First History of Canada Review by Andrea Jones

Donalda Dickie and Rudiger Krause
Red Leaf Press
528 Carnarvon St.
New Westminster, BC
V3L 1C4

Having only studied American history in depth, I found this book on Canadian history a treat. Much of American history is intertwined with that of our neighbor to the north anyway. While some of the names and places will be familiar to us "Yankees," Donalda Dickie has woven together many separate short stories, "put down one after the other" to "tell one big, important story. That story is the story of Canada, we call it the history of Canada." These were some of Dickie's own words in her foreword for girls and boys. Rudiger Krause made minor changes to improve the style, correct historical error, and bring Canada's story up to the present in this edition. But Dickie obviously understands how to draw the reader in, making history interesting. Her narrative reads like a story as good children's literature should.

A table of contents on the first few pages is helpful in finding a specific time period or important event. There are twenty-one chapters beginning with Canada's first people and continuing through to the present. Each chapter is also subdivided with simple headings to easily find information. The chapters are short enough to read a little at a time without losing the story. In order to keep track of all of the places, people and events, it would be helpful to keep a large map of Canada close-by and some index cards to organize important people and events encountered. Suggestions for making a timeline in the activities section would also aid in retaining information. Illustrations by Lloyd Scott add to the charm of this story, giving younger readers a visual aid for period dress and location of many places mentioned. My husband thought Scott's line drawn maps were too small to be of much help, but some of the place-names have changed over time, so for historical accuracy, they were very helpful. I personally love to look at maps and will probably grab a larger map of Canada when reading this to my own children. It would be fun to track the story as Canada's history moves West.

I love the Questions and Activities section for each chapter included at the back of the book. There are questions for before you read the chapter as well as questions and activities for afterwards. The activities are helpful in understanding the story and would add some hands-on fun. For example, after reading about explorers in chapter 2, students are to -On a balloon or ball, sketch the continents of the Old World: Europe, Asia, and Africa; leaving out the Americas and Antarctica. This is what the sailors thought the world looked like. Trace a route from Western Europe to the east coast of Asia; this route is what Columbus, Cabot and other explorers were hoping to travel. Now draw in the great "obstacle" that was in the way: North and South America. As with any curriculum, every question and activity does not have to be completed. Pick and choose those that fit your family best.

As if this were not enough, My First History of Canada also includes an index for quick reference. There is even a page with helpful information on using the index as a study guide. Major themes in Canada's history are printed in all caps so a student could explore further some of these ideas listed.

Dickie reminds her readers that "Canada's history does not end with the last chapter of this book. Her story is still going on, and, of course, there are people in the story today, just as there always have been. You and I are some of the people in today's story.... The story of Canada is an adventure story, and My First History of Canada will tell you what happened in the story before you and I joined in."

Doesn't that make you want to read more? Dickie's engaging writing style makes this book a classic on Canadian history. It is evident why this book has been reprinted to inspire today's children. An older child could read the book on his or her own. However, the additional activities and questions are highly recommended to cement what has been learned. I anticipate this treasure will be an enjoyable read-aloud through Canada's history for my own little history buffs.

Product review by: Andrea Jones, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008.