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November 27, 2009

Books that tell the historical story

With Christmas approaching and a long winter ahead a look at some interesting books, mostly with a historical perspective, may be of interest

Book covers of some of the books referenced.

Champlain’s Dream

A brilliant new 834 page book on the life of Samuel de Champlain by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Hackett Fisher was published in 2008, to rave reviews. A French version is in the works. To the serious reader it provides a remarkable insight into one of our founding fathers. I wrote about Champlain in January 2004 (available on my website) and on the celebration in Quebec in 2008. We will celebrate him again in 2015, 400 years after he travelled across Lake Nipissing down the Mattawa River where a Provincial Park is named after him.

Champlain was an excellent and persistent navigator, politician and traveller as well as an outstanding cartographer and artist. Many samples of his work appear in the book. He played a major role in “the starting of three populations - Quebecois, Acadian, and Metis – from which millions descended.”


Another highly acclaimed book is Kanata by Don Gillmor on the famous Canadian explorer David Thompson. The book is a novel and is a fascinating read.

Discover Canada

The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration has prepared a new “Study Guide” outlining the Rights & Responsibilities of Citizenship in Canada. A quarter million copies will be available in the near future for all new immigrants to Canada seeking citizenship.

I contacted Don Curry the Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre the day the book was launched to see if a copy was available. It is available online but a hardcopy will not be available for a while. He referred me to a front page article on the book in the Globe & Mail that day which coincidentally was written by 2 reporters, one of whom was Don’s son Bill.

The book has received some praise but also some criticism. The Monarchy and the Military are emphasized as are some of Canada’s leaders from the past. There is little reference to women or native people. One critic was concerned with the lack of information on the Arts and Culture scene. The document strongly states that immigrants have to respect Canadian law and culture and put aside some unacceptable practices from other countries.

It will be interesting to see how it is received by new immigrants. For the rest of us a useful 62 page reference on Canadian history.

Books of Canadian Photographs

On a lighter note two books of Canadian photographs make excellent coffee table fare. Both books have remarkable photographs and supporting text and make for many hours of evocative study.

Mirror with a Memory – a Nation’s Story in Photographs by Janice Weaver not only provides the photographs but also an accompanying description of the evolution of photography.

Beaver Magazine, Canada’s National History Magazine has a book coming out this month called 100 Photos that Changed Canada. It includes some of the classic familiar photos but many new ones. Both of these books would be good books to go along with the citizenship book above. The Beaver, available in most libraries, lists dozens of books on every imaginable topic and is well worth a look or even a subscription. Google an area of interest and you may be surprised what you find.

Local History Books

As a local historian I have an interest in books by local authors. I recently drew your attention to Nipissing University’s Francoise Noel’s book Family & Community Life in Northeastern Ontario. Her republication of the North Bay section of the classic Gateway to Silverland is also a gem.

There are still copies of the Beat Light – North Bay Police History 1882 – 2007available. There is a reference to the famous Donald Kelly who died recently in prison at age 71 having been incarcerated in 1975, is an interesting reference.

A few months ago North Bay Mayor Fidelli’s website had a blog by a Mattawa citizen who complimented Vic , Hazel McCallion of Mississauga, and Dr. F. Monestime as exemplary Mayors. Mayor McCallion has a new book out on her life, a remarkable woman mayor overseeing Mississauga, Canada’s 6^th largest city, at age 88. Dr. Monestime will be remembered in Mattawa on January 1, 2010 when the council chambers will be named after him at the New Year’s Day Levee there.

For Better or Worse

Lynn Johnston has been producing books and providing book signings on her For Better or Worse comic characters for years at Gullivers Books in North Bay and elsewhere . Her new book Farley Follows His Nose and most of her previous books are available at Gullivers and most are signed with a sketch of one of her characters. I have most of her books and have given them as Christmas gifts for years. Great for children of all ages.

Check these books out at you local book store, library or online and enjoy a good read.

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