CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Judith Saltman.
Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. 1987.
136pp., paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-19-540572-2. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Children-Canada-Books and reading.
Youth-Canada-Books and reading.
Children's literature, Canadian (English)-History and criticism.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Bohdan Kinczyk.

Volume 15 Number 5
1987 Sptember

Good things have been happening in Canadian children's literature since the publication of Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie (Macmillan, 1974). The "harbinger of a new era", Lee's book urged us to celebrate our own rich mythology "of place, history, and daily life". Sure, we giggled and squealed and made delicious mischief as we read, but in naming the weird ingredients and the wild particulars of our Canadian experience, we made that experience our own. We baked us quite a pie.

In Modern Canadian Children's Books, Judith Saltman surveys the noteworthy titles and developments in picture books, fiction, and poetry in the post - Alligator Pie period, 1975-1985. After briefly explaining how the Canadian nationalism of the late 60s and early 70s collaborated with increased government subsidies for writers and publishers, and the rise of small alternative presses to produce an atmosphere of exciting growth in lit for little people, Saltman begins a closer examination of recent titles and trends.

The chapter on picture books is wonderful. Beginning with the premise that picture books are a "microcosm of a country's literature for children, reflecting in miniature the nation's themes and cultural vision," Saltman argues that the best books, by wedding "art and text into an indivisible whole," offer children a condensed "bright kernel of experience." The main purpose of the once-neglected picture book, she says, is to celebrate "the wonder of being in the world." In the last decade the best of our authors and illustrators have been so remarkably successful that the picture book "now occupies a significant position in the world family of Canadian and international children's literature".

Although young adult fiction and children's poetry have not been quite so successful, the future looks bright for children's literature. The last decade has brought unprecedented growth which must "surely bear fruit that will enrich our culture even further".

Each chapter ends with a bibliography of all titles cited; in addition, the book's index offers a comprehensive list of authors, titles, and illustrators. Without doubt, teachers, librarians, and parents will find Saltman's survey both highly informative and extremely pleasurable.

Bohdan Kinczyk, Central Elgin C.l., St. Thomas, ON.
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