Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review - M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet

M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet (Discover the World)
by Michael Ulmer
illustrated by Melanie Rose
Date: 2004
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Whether sharing the stories of Anne of Green Gables and Terry Fox, or revealing Canada's importance in growing grain that feeds the world, "M is for Maple" is a shining tribute to Canada. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, this Canadian alphabet book shares our nation's symbols, history, people and culture. In clever rhymes and informative text, author Mike Ulmer shares the unique details of Canada. Illustrator Melanie Rose has captured the beauty and splendor of Canada, from the Northern Lights to brave Mounties and the beautiful cities of Toronto, Victoria, and Quebec. Destined to become a national classic, "M is for Maple" is a treasure for Canadians young and old.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The fact that this book is so old (and therefore a bit outdated) is probably part of the reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Another reason is the errors in the text. Some of the poems are a bit clunky and wouldn't really roll off the tongue if you were reading the book out loud. And, finally, this is a pretty European-centred alphabet; lip service is paid to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, but they make up a very small portion of this book. Black culture has almost as much representation, with less history (proportionally speaking). While I'm not expecting to see "R is for Residential Schools" in a children's book, I do think the topic of the role of Indigenous peoples in Canada could've been more than a series of footnotes.

The outdated portions are a result of talking about current events or statistics (at least, they were current when the book was written). This could've been avoided by adding some dates, because as it stands, some of the statistics look like they refer to today.

There are a few errors, such as referring to the Salt Spring Islands (Salt Spring is one island, and is never referred to in the plural) and the bit about the inventor of the zipper. The book claims Gideon Sundback was Canadian. He wasn't; he was Swedish, and later had American citizenship. He was the president of a zipper company whose factory was located in Canada. Calling him a Canadian is a stretch at best, and outright inaccurate at worst.

For these reasons, I can't wholeheartedly recommend this book, which is a shame because there are some letters of the alphabet that have some really interesting factoids to go along with them. After reading the book and finding a few errors, though, I'm not sure if there are more inaccuracies hidden throughout the text. It makes me leery about giving the book to a child who might take everything in here as truth.

Quotable moment:

A is for Anne--that's Anne with an E--
a red-headed orphan who loved Avonlea.
The Cuthberts had thought they were adopting a boy,
but that red-headed girl would be their pride and their joy.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5

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