CANADIAN SOCIAL STUDIES
In this article, the author develops the idea that the study of historical novels has the capacity to help students develop a sense of "historical empathy." Drawing on examples taken from a wide range of historical fiction, the author suggests that for this empathetic sense to be fully realized, teachers need to apply four specific selection criteria to their choice of novels to study. As a study aid, the author provides an extensive bibliography of historical resources.
"You know you can't take all your dolls with you,"
I said softly
Contrast this vignette from the novel, Caged Eagles, by Eric Walters, with the following textbook description:
During the war, the Canadian government made Japanese Canadians move away from the west coast. The government was afraid that Japanese Canadians would help Japan win the war. They had to give up their houses, land, fishing boats and personal belongings. Many had to live in special camps separated from their families (Bowers & Swanson, 1985, p. 306)
There is no particular reason for singling out this textbook. In fact, it happens to be a very good text. The point is that a textbook, by presenting the bare facts, does not convey emotions. A textbook does not help students develop a sense of what it actually felt like to be in a particular situation; in this case, to have to abandon one's home and belongings, to leave for an unknown destination, possibly never to return. A textbook cannot convey the fear and the uncertainty felt at such a time. It is only by telling the story of individuals, and giving them words, that these feelings can be conveyed in a way that builds empathy in the reader.
This is the prime reason why it is worthwhile to use novels in the teaching of history. It is to help students personalize events, to develop historical empathy, a strong sense of what it actually might have been like to have those experiences, in a way that textbooks cannot. Children's author Heather Kirk (1996) has referred to this as the "emotional sustenance" (p. 19) which novels can provide.
Definitions of Historical Fiction
According to Huck et al. (1993) historical fiction encompasses "all realistic stories that are set in the past" (p. 601). Egoff and Saltman (1990) also endorse this definition and thereby exclude "past-time fantasies." There is some controversy around this point. Children's author Heather Kirk (1996) contends, and I would agree, that it is unreasonable to exclude, as Egoff and Saltman do, novels which involve time travel, in which a contemporary protagonist travels to the past and takes part in events there. Following this definition, Egoff and Saltman exclude important historical novels such as Karleen Bradford's The Other Elizabeth (1972), Janet Lunn's Root Cellar (1980), and Kevin Major's Blood Red Ochre (1989) from the historical fiction category and include them instead in their "Fantasy" chapter. As Kirk points out, this problem would be merely academic if it did not result in important historical novels being overlooked. My own category of historical fiction is a broad one. I choose to include these "past-time fantasies" because they meet the purposes of history teachers in the same way that other historical novels do. Time travel is simply a literary device to allow the narrator to legitimately express contemporary views on past events without being open to accusations of anachronism.
Children's fiction writer Jill Paton Walsh (1972) distinguishes between the historical novel, which is one that is "wholly or partly about public events and social conditions which are the material of history" (p. 19) and the 'costume' novel, which simply chooses a place and time from the past as stage props. She asks, "Can we imagine the plot and characters set in any other period? If we can, then the book is not in any organic way about its historical period. It may be a very good book, but it is not a historical novel" (p. 18). Kit Pearson's Guests of War trilogy, the story of two British children sent to Toronto during World War Two, is an outstanding example of the former. Kirk (1996) calls it, "complex and mature in subject matter, discussing as it does the results of peaceful colonialism on the mentality of Canadians during World War II: the unquestioned loyalty to Britain, the indifference to the plight of Jewish and Dutch children, the smugness about our own safety and affluence, and the incomprehension of the emotional trauma caused by first-hand experience of war" (p. 18). It is firmly set in its time and place. Egoff and Saltman (1990) would consider the first two books of Marianne Brandis' trilogy, The Tinderbox (1982) and The Quarter-Pie Window (1985) as "costume novels." (The third book was not yet published.) They describe these books as "not contain[ing] the slightest mention of a historical event (a war or rebellion) or a social situation (the plight of homeless boys or labour disputes). These are individual life stories that could take place today but are set in the past" (p. 124). I have included both of these types of books, although far more of the former, in my annotated bibliography because even the 'costume novels' may be of interest to students, help them empathize with people in the past, and provide information about details of daily living.
There has been increased emphasis on historical fiction among writers of children's and adolescent fiction over the past twenty-five years. This interest is increasing rather than waning.. In the past year, fictional diaries, novellas, full-fledged novels, and re-issued stories by authors such as G.A. Henty and Ralph Connor, have all appeared.
Along with this renewed interest, there have been several new developments. One is the proliferation of female protagonists. Jane Austen (1817, 1975) had a character say, "[History] tells me nothing that does not either vex me or weary me. . . . the men are all so good for nothing and hardly any women at al" (p. 96). The problem of lack of women, or at least girls, has been largely rectified in Canadian juvenile fiction over the past decade. (The "good for nothing" men may still be there!) In fact, it might be fair to say that females have taken over. Two new series support this point. Four new novellas in the Our Canadian Girl (2001) series have been published to date, each featuring a ten-year-old girl. The two books in the Dear Canada (2001), which are presently in print, have female protagonists. There are countless other examples.
Another trend is the blurring of the line between fiction and nonfiction. Barbara Greenwood, for example, has published several books, including Gold Rush Fever (2001), which include historical background information woven around a fictional narrative. The Story of Canada (1992), a reference book for a juvenile audience, contains stories. Interestingly enough, this book was written by a children's fiction author, Janet Lunn, and a historian, Christopher Moore.
This trend is also evident in recently published journals. These publications range from pure fiction, to fictionalized presentation of the life of an actual person, to an authentic journal embellished with insertions by a contemporary author/editor. For instance, the books of the Dear Canada series, with titles like Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope (2001), sound like actual journals. They are written in the first person and presented as children's diaries, but are in fact, pure fiction. Eleonora's Diary (1994), is the authentic journal of a young girl, written over thirteen years, and preserved by her family for 150 years. Caroline Parry provides lengthy explanations of the historical background to events described by Eleonora, a glossary of archaic terms, photographs, maps, and an ongoing discussion of how she is going about constructing an historical record of Eleonora's life.
Biography, too, has come into its own recently. Here, too, there is great variation in approach. Susan Merritt's Her Story: Women from Canada's Past (1993, 1995, 1999), now in three volumes, fits within the traditional biography genre. Connie Brummel Crook's three-volume biography of Nellie McClung (1994, 1998, 1999), however, is fictionalized. The author builds a story around documented events, constructing dialogue and inventing other events in order to move the story along and keep it interesting.
So far I have discussed a few points around historical fiction which are of interest to any student of the subject. But what are the concerns of special relevance to teachers of history? Two are particularly important: accuracy and presentism.
Accuracy is a concern when using historical fiction because its prime
purposes are to tell a story and to entertain, not to provide information.
Charles Frasier (2001), author of the adult novel, Cold Mountain,
talks about this:
Not long ago I met a reader who told me her husband was convinced that at some point in Cold Mountain, I began making things up. Her husband wondered when that was. I said I knew exactly at what point I began making things up. It was on page one. That exchange keeps coming back to me, largely because its assumptions raise any number of questions . . . about how historical fiction works and, indeed, what its goals as a genre should be. Where, for example, should we place the balance point between the history and the fiction? (I'm supposing, perhaps unfairly, that the husband would position it to leave a great weighty length of history and only a bare nub of fiction, just enough to keep the plot rolling along.) Might we wish to limit historical fiction to a retelling or repackaging of so-called actual past events? To what extent are we writers free to introduce well-known historical figures into our work and have them carry on conversations and commit acts we cannot verify? Are we free to lash them with emotions they never actually felt it worked best for me to let the fiction drive and the history ride. (p. 312-313)
As a history teacher, this strikes fear into my heart. It serves as a reminder that we need to provide students with other information sources. A novel should never be the sole information source about a particular place, time, or event. Also, we should encourage students to view information provided in novels from a critical perspective. However, it should be noted that, at the same time, students should not be viewing textbooks and other nonfiction reference books, uncritically either. As with novels, they should be examining nonfiction resources for what is omitted as well as for what is included; and for how information is presented, so they can determine whose views are given a prominent place.
It is important that we make students aware of the author's prime purposes; that is, storytelling and entertainment rather than provision of information; and that we encourage students to read historical novels primarily for the enjoyment they offer. As Roberta McKay (1999) has pointed out, literature should be used to "provoke an aesthetic response, to stir an affinity with the human condition, to capture our hearts and imaginations as well as our minds, and to connect us to ourselves and others" (p. 350).
It should be noted too, that, in spite of their desire to "let
the fiction drive," many authors report taking great delight
in amassing the historical details necessary to paint a rich and (mostly)
accurate picture of the past. Well known author Jean Little (1996)
It is the small details that make historical fiction work, I believe. You need to know what hymns they sang, what their family traditions were, what sayings were passed down, what riddles were set, what advice was given to children, what chores they had to do, what books they read, what games they played, what gave them nightmares. Finding these bits and pieces is like going on a treasure hunt-deeply satisfying when you stumble on a tiny bit that brings your whole scene to life. (pp. 96-97)
Janet McNaughton, author of To Dance at the Palais Royale (1997) has commented on some of the questions around accuracy which she confronted when writing this novel. In the end she placed the "message" she wished to send to her young readers over the accuracy of the information she provided. For instance, she manipulated circumstances in order to portray interactions between the British born protagonist, Aggie and Rachel Mendorfsky, a Jewish woman from Russia.. It is unlikely that such interactions would ever have actually taken place. She explained that "Toronto was on the verge of becoming one of the great cosmopolitan cities of all time. And in an odd way, I felt it would be untrue to the future if my view of the past portrayed Toronto as nothing but that outpost of the empire" (p. 18). And yet, Toronto in the 1920s was indeed an "outpost of Empire." McNaughton manipulated her story in order to portray the city that Toronto would become rather than the city as it was during the period in which the events of the novel took place. It seems an odd decision.
The other concern is "presentism." This refers to the placing of "present-day culturally contingent values and conventions and judgments upon the people of the past, people whose cultural frameworks were quite different" (Seixas, 1993, p. 353). Authors often use "presentism" quite intentionally because it is a means of making protagonists more convincing and realistic to their contemporary readers. They become recognizable as people the reader might know, but who just happen to be operating in an historical context. Many authors of juvenile fiction get around this difficulty by using the device discussed earlier; this is having children go back in time, and thus legitimately view events from a contemporary perspective.
McNaughton has described how she struggled, in To Dance at the Palais Royale, with the question of how to present an action which would be considered child abuse today; but which was perfectly acceptable, and even laudable, parental behaviour in 1920s Scotland. The younger children in the family steal from the collection plate at church, and are whipped by their father as punishment. She had to include this action because it was appropriate to the time. However, she wanted her readers to realize that she did not approve. In the end, she compromised. She had the Minister approve of the father's actions, thereby showing that they were acceptable within that community in that historical period. However, she had Aggie, the novel's protagonist, strongly disapprove.
Attached to the end of this article is an annotated bibliography of Canadian historical fiction for juvenile readers. It requires a few words of explanation. First, it is by no means complete, as if that can ever be the case. It is a work-in-progress representing my discoveries to date. Second, it does not include adult novels, of which there are many which would be suitable for use in grades eleven and twelve classrooms. That is another area for investigation. Third, it includes the Our Canadian Girl series, which is identified by the publisher as being suitable for ages 8-12. I made the decision to include this series, even though it is written in very simple language, because it is about important Canadian historical topics such as the Halifax explosion and the Chinese head tax, the stories are interesting, it has female protagonists, it would be suitable for less able readers, and because I thought readers would be interested in hearing about a series which is brand new. Finally, I have chosen to include Anne of Green Gables and Rilla of Ingleside, two novels that were actually written just after the time period which they portray. Stories written during or just after a particular time period are not usually considered to be historical fiction. However, these two novels do a wonderful job of illuminating a particular historical period and place, and I believe that they are well worth including; especially as there seems to be little other historical fiction which takes place on Prince Edward Island. Finally, while there is older work which is also useful, I have focussed on fiction written in the past twenty-five years.
Austen, Jane. (1817, 1975). Northanger Abbey. London: The Folio Society.
Bowers, Vivian, & Diane Swanson. (1985). Exploring Canada: Learning
from the Past,
Looking to the Future. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre (Educational) Ltd.
Carnes, Mark (Ed.). (2001). Novel History: Historians and Novelists
Past (and Each Other). New York: Simon & Schuster.
Frazier, Charles. (2001). "Some Remarks on History and Fiction." Chap. in Novel History: Historians and Novelists Confront America's Past (and Each Other) 311-315. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Huck, C., Hepler, S., & J. Hickman. (1993). Children's Literature in the Elementary School. (5th ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Kirk, Heather. (1996). "No Home or Native Land: How Canadian History Got Left Out of Recent Historical Fiction for Children by Canadians." Canadian Children's Literature, 87, 8-25.
Levstik, Linda S. & Keith C. Barton. (1997). Doing History:
Investigating with Children
in Elementary and Middle Schools. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Little, Jean. (1996). "My Historical Fictions." Canadian Children's Literature, 83, 94-97.
McKay, Roberta. (1999). "Promoting the Aesthetic Experience: Responding to Literature in Social Studies." In R. Case & P. Clark, The Canadian Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Teachers, pp. 349-360. Vancouver, BC: Pacific Educational Press.
McNaughton, Janet. (1997). "Interpreting the Past." Children's Book News, 20(2), 17-18.
Montgomery, L.M. (1920). Rilla of Ingleside. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Seixas, Peter. (1993). "Confronting the Moral Frames of Popular Film: Young People Respond to Historical Revisionism." American Journal of Education, 102, 261-285.
Walsh, Jill Paton. (1972). "History is Fiction." The Horn
Book Magazine, XLVIII (1),
Juvenile Historical Fiction and Biography About Canada
Henighan, Tom. (2001). Viking Quest.
Describes the experiences of fifteen-year-old Rigg, son of Leif Eriksson, in an early eleventh century settlement in Vinland.New France
Martel, Suzanne. (1992). The King's Daughter.
Describes life in New France from the point of view of a recently arrived filles du roi.
Manson, Ainslie. (1992). A Dog Came Too.
This beautiful picture book depicts the 1793 journey of Alexander Mackenzie and his men overland to the Pacific Ocean. The focus is the faithful dog that did actually make the journey.
Thomas, Audrey. (2001). Isobel Gunn.
This fictional account is based on the true story of a woman who came to Canada disguised as a man, and who worked as a fur trader until giving birth.
Thompson, Margaret. (2000). Eyewitness.
Six year old Peter lives in Fort St. James, New Caledonia, in the 1820s. He meets future governor of Vancouver Island and New Caledonia, James Douglas, Hudson Bay Company Governor Sir George Simpson, chief trader James McDougall, and Carrier Chief Kwah.
Expulsion of the Acadians
Carter, Anne Laurel. (2002). Bless This House (Our Canadian Girl Series)
Elizabeth and her family come from New England to settle on an abandoned Acadian farm.
Downie, Mary Alice. (1980). Proper Acadian.
A boy chooses between deportation and family ties
Battle of Plains of Abraham
Henty, G.A. (1896, 2001). With Wolfe in Canada: Or the Winning of a Continent.
This reprinted book tells an imperialistic tale of a heroic British lad at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Bradford, Karleen. (2002). With Nothing But Our Courage: The Loyalist Diary of Mary
MacDonald (Dear Canada Series)
Describes the fictional experiences of a family of Loyalists who settle in the colony of Quebec.
Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
Crook, Connie Brummel. (1991). Flight.
John W. Meyers (the founder of Belleville, Ontario and an ancestor of the author) and his family flee the American Revolution.
Crook, Connie Brummel. (2001). The Hungry Year.
Twelve-year-old Kate cares for her two younger brothers in a wilderness cabin during the harsh winter of 1787.
Crook, Connie Brummel. (1995). Meyers' Creek.
Tells the fictionalized experiences of John W. Meyers and his family as they build a new life in the colony of Quebec. (A sequel to Flight)
Downie, Mary Alice & John Downie. (1971). Honor Bound
Loyalist family leaves the United States after the American Revolution and settles in Quebec.
Kositsky, Lynne. (2001). Rachel: A Mighty Big Imagining (Our Canadian
Former slaves, living in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution, have been promised freedom if they fight on the side of the Loyalists.
Lunn, Janet. (1997). The Hollow Tree
Phoebe Olcott makes a dangerous journey to deliver a message carried by her cousin, Gideon, who has been hanged as a British spy during the American Revolution. She marries and settles on an island in Lake Ontario.
War of 1812
Bradford, Karleen. (1982). The Other Elizabeth.
Elizabeth travels back in time to 1813 and saves the life of one of her ancestors.
Brandis, Marianne. (1992). Fire Ship.
Describes the 1813 devastation of York by the Americans, from the point of view of Dan, a boy who has recently emigrated from the United States.
Crook, Connie Brummel. (1994). Laura's Choice.
Tells the story of Laura Secord and the War of 1812.
Ibbitson, John. (1991). 1812.
Orphaned boy loses his farm and fights with General Brock.
Pearson, Kit. (2002). Whispers of War: The 1812 Diary of Susanna
Merritt (Dear Canada Series)
Describes the fictional experiences of Susanna and her family, who are living on the Niagara Peninsula. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
Sass, Gregory. (1985). Redcoat.
Working-class boy joins the British army and travels to Upper Canada to serve under General Brock. Egoff & Saltman (1990) call this "the harshest book in Canadian children's fiction" (p. 118).
Walters, Eric. (2000). The Bully Boys
Describes the adventures of fourteen-year old Tom Roberts with the British Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon and his Bully Boys. Lighthearted, humourous account.
Immigration to Upper and Lower Canada
Bilson, Geoffrey. (1982). Death Over Montreal.
Jamie Douglas travels from Scotland, only to arrive in Montreal during a cholera epidemic. He helps a naturalistic healer with his work.
Lunn, Janet. (1986). Shadow in Hawthorn Bay.
Mary Urquhart follows her cousin Duncan from the Highlands of Scotland to the wilderness of Upper Canada.
Parry, Caroline. (1994). Eleanora's Diary: The Journals of a Canadian
The author takes an actual diary account of the experiences of a British immigrant family in Simcoe County, Ontario, and adds historical details, maps, photographs, drawings and explanations.
Upper Canada/Canada West (1800-1860s)
Brandis, Marianne. (1996). Rebellion: A Novel of Upper Canada.
Describes the Rebellion of 1837 from the perspectives of three teenagers.
Brandis, Marianne. Trilogy
The Tinderbox (1982).
The Quarter-Pie Window (1985).
The Sign of the Scales (1990).
Describes rural Upper Canada and the new town of York during the 1830s.
German, Tony. (1982). Tom Penny and the Grand Canal.
Describes the adventures of sixteen-year-old Tom Penny during the "canal fever" period of the 1830s
Greenwood, Barbara. (1984). A Question of Loyalty.
A family who support the government protects a young rebel in the aftermath of the 1837 Rebellion.
Greenwood, Barbara. (1990). Spy in the Shadows.
Describes the Fenian raids across the Niagara River in 1866.
Lunn, Janet. (1981). The Root Cellar
Rose is transported to Upper Canada and the American Civil War.
Red River Settlement
Matas, Carol. (2002). Footsteps in the Snow: The Red River Diary of Isobel Scott (Dear Canada Series).
Describes the fictional experiences of Isobel and her family, who travel from Scotland to settle in Rupert's Land. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
Freeman, Bill. (1976). The Last Voyage of the Scotian.
Meg and John are crew members on a windjammer which travels from Quebec to Jamaica with a load of squared timber, then onto Liverpool with a cargo of sugar-cane, and, finally, back to Halifax with a load of immigrants. (Sequel to Shantymen of Cache Lake)
Freeman, Bill. (1975). Shantymen of Cache Lake.
Meg and John find work in the same Ottawa Valley lumber camp where their father died. They carry on his work of starting a union. Book provides many technical details about logging in the mid-nineteenth century.
Freeman, Bill. (1983). Trouble at Lachine Mill.
Child labour replaces striking workers in a Montreal shirt factory in the 1870s. Historical photographs.
Gaetz, Dayle Campbell. (1998). Living Freight.
Orphaned girl leaves 60-hour work week in English mill to move to colony of British Columbia, where she works for the family of James Douglas.
Greenwood, Barbara. (1998). The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad.
Eleven-year-old Eliza travels from a southern plantation to St. Catherines, Canada West. Book is a combination of fiction and historical information.
Smucker, Barbara. (1978). Underground to Canada.
Julilly, a slave, escapes to Canada via the underground railroad.
Godfrey, Martyn. (1988). Mystery in the Frozen Lands.
Depicts life of nineteenth century explorers through an expedition in search of John Franklin.
Cariboo Gold Rush
Duncan, Sandy Francis. (1997, rev. ed.). Cariboo Runaway.
Two children set out on a dangerous journey, travelling from Victoria to Barkerville in search of their missing father, who is a prospector.
Walsh, Ann. (1998). The Doctor's Apprentice.
Fourteen-year-old Ted MacIntosh is an apprentice to a doctor in Barkerville at the height of the gold rush and during the fire of 1868. (Sequel to Moses Me & Murder)
Walsh, Ann. (1988). Moses Me & Murder.
Twelve-year-old Ted MacIntosh and his friend Moses work to solve a murder in Barkervillle at the height of the gold rush.
Walsh, Ann. (1984). Your Time, My Time.
Fifteen-year-old Margaret Elizabeth Connell is transported back in time to the Barkerville of 1870. She meets Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, falls in love with a boy of the time, and deals with death.
Building the Canadian Pacific Railway
Bright, Elizabeth. (2001). Lambs of Hell's Gate.
Mui travels from China and then up the Fraser Canyon in search of her brother.
Lawson, Julie. (2002). A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary
of Kate Cameron (Dear Canada Series)
Describes the fictional experiences of twelve-year-old Kate, as she observes the building of the CPR through the Fraser Canyon. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
1869 & 1885
Truss, Jan. (1977). A Very Small Rebellion.
Story is accompanied by background information on both resistances.
Boyle, B.J. (2000). Battle Cry at Batoche.
The events of the 1885 Riel Resistance are viewed through the eyes of fifteen year old twins, whose uncle is a Hudson's Bay Company employee, and a Cree boy, who are befriended by Gabriel and Madeleine Dumont.
Richards, David. (1993). Soldier Boys.
Describes the experiences of a bugle boy with the Winnipeg Rifles and a Metis boy who meet at the battle of Fish Creek.
Scanlan, W.J. (1989). Rebellion.
Fifteen-year old Jack is captured by the Metis after the Battle of Duck Lake during the 1885 Resistance.
"Home" Children (1860s-1930s)
Holeman, Linda. (1997). Promise Song
Orphans, fourteen-year-old Rosetta and her younger sister, Flora, travel from England to Canada . Upon arrival, the sisters are separated, but manage to reunite after many tribulations.
Little, Jean. (2001). Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of
Victoria Cope (Dear Canada Series)
Describes the fictional experiences of two home children in Guelph, Ontario. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
Klondike Gold Rush
Greenwood, Barbara. (2001). Gold Rush Fever: A Story of the Klondike, 1898.
Thirteen-year-old Tim and his older brother make the hazardous journey from Seattle to the Yukon and spend a year in the gold fields. Book is a combination of fiction and historical information.
Turn of the Century
Barkhouse, Joyce. (1990). Pit Pony.
Gives a portrayal of life in a company mining town in Cape Breton.
Hutchins, Hazel. (1994). Within a Painted Past
Alison time travels to nineteenth century Banff and Alberta foothills area
McGugan, Jim. (1994). Josepha: A Prairie Boy's Story
A fourteen year old immigrant boy on the prairies must attend school with younger children because he cannot speak English.
Montgomery, L.M. (1908). Anne of Green Gables.
This internationally acclaimed book depicts social mores and daily life in rural Prince Edward Island in latter half of nineteenth century.
Stinson, Kathy. (2001). Marie-Claire: Dark Spring (Our Canadian Girl
Ten-year-old Marie-Claire encounters poverty, filth, and a smallpox epidemic in 1885 Montreal.
Tanaka, Shelley. (1996). On Board the Titanic
Tells a fictionalized story of two of the Titanic's survivors. Lots of factual detail and explanations provided, as well as many photographs and original illustrations.
Canada and World War One
Granfield, Linda. (1995). In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae.
Each line of the poem is accompanied by a vivid full-page illustration. Includes a biography of McCrae and a description of the writing and legacy of the poem.
Haworth-Attard, Barbara. (2002). Irish Chain.
Rose and her family experience the devastating effects of the Halifax explosion.
Haworth-Attard, Barbara. (2001). Flying Geese.
Twelve-year old Margaret and her family leave their farm in Saskatchewan to live in London, Ontario, where they deal with poverty and the anxiety of having a son and brother overseas. The theme of quilting as a means of expression for women weaves through this book.
Major, Kevin. (1995). No Man's Land.
Describes the men of the Newfoundland Regiment at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
McKay, Sharon, E. (2001). Penelope: Terror in the Harbour (Our Canadian
Penny, who is responsible for looking after her two sisters, must cope with the effects of the Halifax explosion.
Montgomery, L.M. (1920). Rilla of Ingleside.
This poignant story describes the anguish of life on the homefront in rural Prince Edward Island. Rilla is Anne Shirley's (of Anne of Green Gables) youngest daughter.
Whitaker, Muriel. (Ed.). (2001). Great Canadian War Stories.
As Whitaker puts it, "These are stories of individuals, generally taking the form of fiction basedon personal experience." (Adult book)
Winnipeg General Strike
Bilson, Geoffrey & Berg, Ron. (1981). Goodbye Sarah.
Mary Jarrett's father is an organizer of the General Strike. The family endures financial hardship and Mary's relationship with her best friend is destroyed as a result of tensions related to the strike.
Doyle, Brian. (2001). Mary Ann Alice.
Describes loss of farmland on Gatineau River due to damming for hydro-electric power.
Ellis, Sarah. (2001). A Prairie as Wide as the Sea: The Immigrant
Diary of Ivy Weatherall (Dear Canada Series)
Describes the fictional experiences of a British family who emigrate to Saskatchewan and their initial experiences there. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.
Hunter, Bernice Thurman. (1995). Amy's Promise.
Describes family interaction set in Toronto.
McNaughton, Janet. (1996). To Dance at the Palais Royale
Aggie, a seventeen-year-old Scottish girl, travels to Toronto to work as a domestic servant. Novel explores poverty, class interaction and ethnicity.
Smucker, Barbara. (1980). Days of Terror.
Describes the persecution of Russian Mennonites and their emigration to Canada.
Great Depression Period
Harris, Dorothy Joan. (2002). Hobo Jungle (Our Canadian Girl Series)
After meeting Will, who has lost his farm, Ellen decides that she is grateful for what she has.
Hunter, Bernice Thurman. Trilogy.
That Scatterbrain Booky (1981).
With Love from Booky (1983).
As Ever, Booky (1985).
Booky and her loving family cope with unemployment and poverty in Toronto.
Kurelek, William. (1975). A Prairie Boy's Summer.
Kurelek, William. (1973). A Prairie Boy's Winter.
Kurelek's paintings depict his rural life on the prairies.
Mitchell, W.O. (1947). Who Has Seen the Wind?
Canadian classic depicts life on the prairies during the Depression. (Adult book)
Morck, Irene. (1999). Five Pennies: A Prairie Boy's Story.
Morck gives a loving portrayal of her father's life as a member of a large family living on farms in Saskatchewan and Alberta from 1916-1939.
Slade, Arthur. (2001). Dust
Fantasy novel takes place in rural Saskatchewan where children are being kidnapped.
Taylor, Cora. (1994). Summer of the Mad Monk
Twelve-year-old Pip and his family cope with the difficulties of living in the Dust Bowl of rural Alberta. Pip suspects immigrant blacksmith is Rasputin, the infamous figure from the Russian Revolution.
Chinese Immigrant Experiences
Chan, Gillian. (1994). Golden Girl and Other Stories.
Five stories explore intergenerational conflict and teenage bullying in the small Ontario town of Elmwood.
Chong, Denise. (1995). The Concubine's Children.
This biographical account describes the author's mother's and grandparents' experiences in Vancouver and Nanaimo Chinatowns. (Adult book)
Choy, Wayson. (1995). The Jade Peony.
Set in Vancouver's Chinatown in the late 1930s and 1940s, this novel describes the mingling of new immigrants with people who have lived there for many years. (Adult book)
Lawson, Julie. (2001). Emily: Across the James Bay Bridge (Our Canadian
Set in 1896, Victoria, BC, Hing, the Chinese cook employed by Emily's family, is saving to pay the $50.00 head tax in order to bring his family from China.
Lawson, Julie. (1993). White Jade Tiger.
Jasmine time travels to Victoria's Chinatown in the 1880s.
Yee, Paul. (1994). Breakaway.
Describes financial hardship and racial intolerance from point of view of Kwok-Ken Wong, an eighteen-year-old Chinese soccer player living on a mudflat farm by the Fraser River during the Great Depression.
Yee, Paul. (1986). The Curses of Third Uncle.
Lilian Ho, who is living in Vancouver's Chinatown in 1909, is learning New World ideas about possibilities for females. Novel is set against a backdrop of a struggle to overthrow the Chinese Emperor.
Yee, Paul. (1996). Ghost Train.
Haunting picture book depicts sacrifices of Chinese immigrants involved in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Powerful illustrations by Harvey Chan.
Yee, Paul. (1989). Tales from Gold Mountain: Stories of the Chinese
in the New World
Eight stories represent the 19th Century Chinese experience in Canada.
Canada and World War Two
McNaughton, Janet. (1994). Catch Me Once, Catch Me Twice.
Describes home front in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1942; family relationships, friendships, class issues, and anguish about a father who is missing in action overseas.
Little, Jean. (1977). Listen for the Singing.
A German-Canadian family living in Toronto is affected by anti-German sentiment.
Whitaker, Muriel. (Ed.). (2001). Great Canadian War Stories.
As Whitaker puts it, "These are stories of individuals, generally taking the form of fiction based on personal experience." (Adult book)
Wilson, Budge. (2002). The Christmas that Almost Wasn't. (Our Canadian
Describes homefront in a coastal Nova Scotia village, complete with German prisoners of war.
Garrigue, Sheila. (1985). The Eternal Spring of Mr. Ito.
Explores effects of attack on Pearl Harbour on relationship between British war evacuee living in Vancouver and Japanese Canadian gardener.
Kawaga. Joy. (1986). Naomi's Road.
A family is moved from Vancouver to an internment camp near Slocan, B.C.
(Based on the adult novel, Obasan, by same author.)
Takashima, Shizuye. (1976). A Child in Prison Camp.
Describes experiences of a Japanese Canadian family living in a Canadian internment camp.
Walters, Eric. (2000). Caged Eagles.
Japanese-Canadian family from a fishing village on the northwest coast of British Columbia is sent to an internment centre in Vancouver, and then to a sugar beet< farm in Alberta.
British Children in Canada
Bilson, Geoffrey. (1984). Hockey Bat Harris.
David Harris is evacuated from Britain in order to live with a family in Saskatoon. Thereare tensions because he is worried about his mother in England and his father on active duty in Egypt.
Pearson, Kit. Guests of War series
The Sky is Falling (1989).
Looking at the Moon (1991).
The Lights Go On Again (1993).
Norah and Gavin are evacuated to Toronto, where they live with a wealthy matron and her adult daughter. There, they confront adolescence, unfamiliar cultural mores, and people who cannot understand the emotional pain of those who have had firsthand experience of war.
Post-World War Two
Boraks-Nemetz, Lillian. (1994). The Old Brown Suitcase: A Teenager's Story of War and Peace.
Jewish girl adjusts to life in Canada, while dealing with memories and emotions related to her war experiences in Europe.
Carrier, Roch. (1979). The Hockey Sweater.
This classic tale of Canada's two solitudes is told from the point of view of a boy living in rural Quebec.
Doyle, Brian. (1984). Angel Square.
Explores racial tensions in Ottawa.
Hewitt, Marsha & Claire Mackay. (1981). One Proud Summer.
The one hundred day millworkers' strike in Valleyfield, Quebec, 1946, is described from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Lucie
Ibbitson, John. (1993). The Night Hazel Came To Town.
Describes the experiences of a copy boy working for the Toronto Telegram during the Cold War period of the 1950s
Pearson, Kit. (1987). A Handful of Time.
Twelve year old girl travels back to the 1950s, to one of her mother's childhood summers at the lake.
Razzell, Mary. (1994). White Wave.
Set in British Columbia, this novel traces a girl's journey toward self-discovery, part of which involves coming to know her father, who returns from service in the Navy.
Sheppard, Mary C. (2001). Seven for a Secret.
Three fifteen year old girls in a fictional coastal village in Newfoundland in the early 1960s cope with impending adulthood and secrets from the past.
Clark, Joan. (1995). The Dream Carvers.
A Greenland Viking who is in Newfoundland, is captured by a Native clan.
Harris, Christie. (1966, 1992). Raven's Cry.
Illustrated by Bill Reid, this book explores impact of European culture on the Haida.
Hudson, Jan. (1984). Sweetgrass.
Sweetgrass, a fifteen-year-old Blackfoot, breaks a tribal taboo to save her family from starvation and smallpox.
Major, Kevin. (1984). Blood Red Ochre.
The story of a contemporary girl and boy living in Newfoundland is mingled with the story ofDauoodaset, one of the last of the Beothuk.
Maracle, Lee. (1993). Ravensong: A Novel.
Seventeen-year-old Stacey lives in a Native village, but attends school in a nearby town. It is the early 1950s and she is struggling to learn how to balance the values of the two cultures.
Olsen, Sylvia, with Rita Morris & Ann Sam. (2001). No Time to
Children's Stories of Kuper Island Residential School
This fictional account describes the experiences of five Tsartlip First Nations children at a residential school.
Sterling, Shirley. (1992). My Name is Seepeetza.
This is a fictional account of one girl in an aboriginal residential school.
Taylor, Cora. (2002). Buffalo Hunt (Our Canadian Girl Series)
Angelique, a Metis girl living near Batoche in 1865, experiences a buffalo hunt.
Barkhouse, Joyce. (1992). Yesterday's Children,
Twelve stories set in Atlantic Canada in different time periods.
Harrison, Dick. (Ed.). (1996). Best Mounted Police Stories.
Reprinted stories organized into four sections: The Trek West and the Early Days, The North-West Rebellion and After, the Gold Rush and the North, the Twentieth Century (Adult book)
Hehner, Barbara. (1999). The Spirit of Canada.
Includes legends, stories, poetry, and songs, written by Canadian authors. Includes 150 illustrations by 15 Canadian children's artists.
Pearson, Kit. (Ed.). (1998). This Land: A Cross-Country Anthology
of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers.
Pearson has selected twenty-two, mostly historical, pieces that are representative of the best of Canadian fiction for adolescents.
Walsh, Ann. (Ed.). (2001). Beginnings: Stories of Canada's Past.
Fourteen stories describe historical "firsts," including a first meeting between First Nations and Europeans, the first filles du roi in New France, and a young woman's first opportunity to vote.
Braid, Kate. (2001). Emily Carr: Rebel Artist.
Detailed biography accompanied by a timeline of major events in Carr's life and black-and-white photographs.
Other books in this series:
Bowen, Lynne. (1999). Robert Dunsmuir: Laird of the Mines.
Chalmers, William. (2000). George Mercer Dawson: Geologist, Scientist, Explorer.
Keller, Betty. (1999). Pauline Johnson: First Aboriginal Voice of Canada.
Margoshes, Dave. (1999). Tommy Douglas: Building the New Society.
Wilson, John. (1999). Norman Bethune: A Life of Passionate Conviction.
Wyatt, Rachel. (1999). Agnes Macphail: Champion of the Underdog.
Crook, Connie Brummel. Trilogy
Fictionalized biography of Nellie McClung.Hancock, Lynn. (1996). Nellie McClung: No Small Legacy.
Nellie L. (1994).
Childhood, ages 10 to 17Nellie's Quest. (1998).
SchoolteacherNellie's Victory. (1999).
Marriage, family life and political activism until 1914
Adult level biography. Includes two of McClung's short stories.
MacLeod, Elizabeth. (1999). Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive
Uses a visual approach. Surrounding the text on each double-page are photographs, newspaper excerpts, editorial notes, as well as a cartoon of Bell with a word bubble in which he makes a comment on the information provided.
Martin, Carol. (1996). Martha Black: Gold Rush Pioneer
Entertaining biography, accompanied by photographs.
Merritt, Susan E. (1993). Her Story: Women from Canada's Past. Vol.
Merritt, Susan E. (1995). Her Story: Women from Canada's Past. Vol. II.
Merritt, Susan E. (1999). Her Story: Women from Canada's Past. Vol. III.
Sixteen biographies in the first two books and 14 in the third, deal with women from different walks of life and different time periods. Black-and-white photographs and paintings depict the people and the times.
Lunn, Janet & Christopher Moore. (1992). The Story of Canada.
Written by a children's author and an historian, this beautifully illustrated history deals with the Ice Age to 1992. Listed in Great Canadian Books of the Century (Vancouver Public Library).
Courtland, Mary Clare & Trevor J. Gambell. (Eds.). (2000). Young Adolescents Meet
Literature. Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press.
Egoff, Sheila A. & Judith Saltman. (1990). The New Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Canadian Children's Literature in English. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Jones, Raymond E. & Jon C. Stott. (2000). Canadian Children's Books: A Critical Guide to Authors and Illustrators. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.
Canadian Children's Literature
Quill and Quire
Canadian Book Review Annual
CLWG: Children's Literature Web Guide
CM: Canadian Materials
Saskatoon Public Library. How Novel! Canadian Young Adult Literature
National Library of Canada. Read Up On It!
(This is an annual publication. The 1996 volume is devoted to Canadian historical fiction.)
Penney Clark is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum
Studies at the University of British Columbia