________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 9. . . .December 19, 2008


Meet Manitoba's Children's Authors.

M. D. Meyer.
Norway House, MB: Goldrock Press (Box 1185, R0B 1B0), 2008.
79 pp., hardcover, $29.95.
ISBN 978-0-9782127-6-6.

Subject Headings:
Authors, Canadian (English)-Manitoba-Biography.
Children's literature, Canadian (English)-Manitoba.
Children-Books and reading-Manitoba.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4




When Larry Verstraete was nine years old, he asked for a printing press for Christmas. His parents thought he was joking and it wasn't until he asked again the following Christmas that they bought him the toy printing press that enabled him to launch his community newspaper. Though, as Larry recalls, the entire project lasted only about a week, I think it set me on the course to becoming a writer. The excitement of tracking down stories, the thrill of putting words to paper – is the same kind of excitement I feel today whenever I do research and start writing a new story.

     internal artMeet Manitoba' Children's Authors provides two page profiles of 37 Manitoba authors who write for children and/or adolescents. While the book's subjects are arranged alphabetically, Meyer does so by the unusual approach of using their given name rather than by the more common practice of alphabetizing by surname. Consequently, the book begins with Angela Narth and concludes with Rob Keough, Those readers who do want a surname listing can find it on the book's dust jacket back cover, with the authors listed from France Adams to Eva Wiseman (though Buffie and Brooks and Sydor and Smid are reversed). Three of the volume's authors have written books that are available only in French, and one of these entries, that of René Ammann, is written entirely in French. The authors range from newcomers, like KC Oliver, Eleanor Chornoboy and Gabriele Goldstone, to the well-established, writers such as Margaret Buffie, Martha Brooks and Linda Holeman.

     In her Introduction, Meyer says that the goal of this book is to inspire the youth of Manitoba to consider a career as an author.

     Another paragraph within the introduction describes the entries' contents.

Profiles are geared towards students, with an author's earliest memories of writing, their favourite books as a child, and advice to young writers. There is also a description and cover photo of the author's newest release and a list of their other books. Writing activities are included that will encourage children to creatively explore the craft of writing. A photo and fun facts about each author will help students identify with the person whose work they are reading.

     Meyer's introduction needed to go further though and explain the criteria that were used to select the authors for inclusion as there are missing authors, including Rhian Brynjolson, Deborah Froese, Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon and Kady Macdonald Denton (admittedley, Kady no longer lives in Manitoba, but most of her books were created while she was still a Manitoban). Meyer also needed to explain how the material for the book was gathered. Did she interview her subjects, or did she send them a questionnaire? It appears that the latter approach was likely used as the writing style of the entries ranges widely, from that which would be accessible to children in grade three to that in which the vocabulary and sentence structure are at a much more sophisticated level.

     In her introduction, Meyer said that each entry contained a list of their [the individual author's] other books [Note: the list contains only the books' titles and dates of publication]; however, Joe McLellan's entry lists only those books he coauthored with his wife, Matrine, and Beatrice Culleton Mosionier's listing omits both In Search of April Raintree and April Raintree, the abridged school edition (though the former title is cited in the Just for fun… section) while Carol Matas's entry is missing numerous titles.

     Despite the introduction's claim that each author's entry contains Fun Facts, such is not entirely true. However, most do, and young readers will garner such interesting tidbits as the fact that Anita Daher's thumbs and knees bend backwards, Rachelle Pomfrey likes cheese and jam sandwiches, and Joe McLellan donated his 19-inch-long braid to Locks of Love. The writing activities vary in their creativity, and they range from the rather bland suggestion that readers visit an author's website to the more creative idea of making one's own bannock, which, while not a writing activity in itself, could lead to readers' writing about the experience. An interesting feature is that each entry contains a way for young readers to contact the author. In some cases, the route is just via a web site, but in most a snail or email address is provided. One thing that does come through in reading all of the book's entries is that many of the authors recall being greatly encouraged by a teacher's positive feedback on a school writing assignment.

     The page design for each of the facing page entries is quite clean, and the paper used is of sufficient weight that the full-colour photos of the authors and the covers of their most recent books reproduce exceptionally well. The book does contain a few annoying grammar errors (principally the objective form her being used when it should be she) a misspelling of Viorst (p. 26), while more attention needed to paid to punctuation, especially the use of the comma.

     Since books by Manitoba's authors for children are read beyond the province's borders, Meet Manitoba's Children's Authors merits a national audience. Because the vast majority of the authors in Meet Manitoba's Children's Authors write for early and/or middle school students, the work will have limited relevance to senior years students.


Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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