Meet David Suzuki
Meet David Suzuki
After David found out that Haida Gwaii’s trees were being cut down, he did an episode about it for The Nature of Things. He talked to many people, including members of the Haida Nation who were trying to protect the forests.
David joined the fight. He spread the protesters’ message further, on the news and in debates. David helped the protesters put pressure on the government. It took many years, but finally the government agreed to protect some of the forests.
David Suzuki is an exemplary Canadian who has received many accolades. His life is a great choice for an instalment of the “Scholastic Canada Biography” series. Elizabeth MacLeod thoroughly researched Suzuki’s accomplishments and timeline for this biography. It would not have been an easy task to choose which events to include when one considers that Suzuki was born before World War II and has lived through so many significant historical events. MacLeod touches on the Japanese internment in World War II, the civil rights movement in the United States, and Suzuki’s time on radio and television, as well as his work as an activist. There is a lot of information for a young person to digest in a short 32 pages!
The watercolour illustrations by Mike Deas add additional context to the content heavy text. The illustrations, in some ways, tell a parallel story, highlighting specific exchanges or episodes within Suzuki’s timeline. The illustrations act like a photo album, accentuating certain events and humanizing this larger-than-life personality.
I was originally confused about the timeline presented. The first spread of the book shows Suzuki looking at a clear-cut section on one of the Haida Gwaii group of islands. The next spread takes the reader to his childhood when he was fishing with his father. At this point, the story follows David’s life more or less chronologically. We return to the story of the clear-cut approximately halfway through the book and then continue to about 2018. I’m still unclear why the author and illustrator decided to start with the clear-cut which happened sometime after 1979 and before 1982. I also found the change of tense from past to present tense jarring.
Both the author and illustrator attempt to weave social justice concepts through the narrative and emphasize Suzuki’s activism for the environment. In the end, the amount of content they packed into the picture book is both impressive and problematic. They have hit many highlights, but, in such a limited space, they were not able to always provide the context for the events. Meet David Suzuki may be a book appreciated more by the adult reader than a child. Including additional notes at the end, along with the timeline, would have been helpful.
Meet David Suzuki will definitely find a home on many Canadian library shelves – and deservedly so!
Jonine Bergen is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.