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Banner: Beyond the Letters: A Retrospective of Canadian Alphabet Books
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Clearly Canadian

What does it mean to be Canadian? People from other countries may have their own particular view of Canada, but how do we see ourselves? The books in this section reflect some of the many different aspects and views of Canada.

A Canadian ABC (1990) contains many traditional symbols of Canada such as the beaver, cold weather, grain, Mounties and Niagara Falls, presented in an attractive yet quiet, understated manner. Eh? to Zed (2000) on the other hand, teems with Canadianisms that explode onto the page in the form of vibrant images, providing a humorous and entertaining look at our country. The Wildlife ABC (1988) concentrates on our country's animals in rural and urban settings. There are also alphabet books that present Canada's Aboriginal heritage. ABC's of Our Spiritual Connection (1993) and The Aboriginal Alphabet for Children (2001) offer Native terminology and concepts, providing readers with an introduction to an ancient culture that lives on in this country.

Featured books

Cover of book, A CANADIAN ABC
Copyright/Source
A Canadian ABC

Cook, Lyn. -- A Canadian ABC. -- Illustrated by Thoreau MacDonald. -- Waterloo, Ont. : Penumbra, 1990. -- [96] p. -- ISBN 0921254245

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This book uses the illustrations from an alphabet book from the 1930s called A Canadian Child's ABC. Publisher John Flood commissioned Lyn Cook to write a contemporary text in verse to accompany the illustrations and Cook has written a simple quatrain for each letter of the alphabet. There is also a set of slightly longer free-form poems, one for each letter, at the end of the book. The black-and-white illustrations, by artist Thoreau MacDonald, are of Canadian scenes. Readers will encounter geographic, historical and cultural themes in the text that accompanies them.

Cover of book, THE ABORIGINAL ALPHABET FOR CHILDREN
Copyright/Source
The Aboriginal Alphabet for Children

Ballantyne, Evelyn. -- The Aboriginal alphabet for children. -- Illustrated by J. Marleen Ross and Noah Head. -- Winnipeg : Pemmican Pub., ©2001. -- [30] p. -- ISBN 1894717139

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This Aboriginal alphabet book highlights terminology that is, for the most part, of significance to Aboriginal culture. While the collaborators are all members of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation of Manitoba, a few of the terms come from Inuit culture. A grey and white border, featuring traditional First Nation artifacts, frames each illustration, most of which are brightly coloured. One line of text accompanies each illustration, giving a brief description of the illustrated term, with the particular word underlined. A list of the featured words is included at the back of the book.

Cover of book, ABC'S OF OUR SPIRITUAL CONNECTION
Copyright/Source
ABC's of Our Spiritual Connection

Goodtrack, Kim Soo. -- ABC's of our spiritual connection. -- Penticton, B.C. : Theytus Books, ©1993, 1994. -- [60] p. -- ISBN 0919441440

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Kim Soo Goodtrack explains her intent at the beginning of her book: "In this ABC book I have shown our Traditional Values accompanied with contemporary concepts." Two pages are devoted to each letter of the alphabet. A First Nations value has been chosen for each letter, for example, "S is for Sweat Lodge." A paragraph describing the meaning and background behind the chosen word is presented, followed by a list of other words that begin with a particular letter. All of these words are presented in the accompanying watercolour illustration. Suggestions for further activities are also included at the end of the book.

Cover of book, EH? TO ZED: A CANADIAN ABECEDARIUM
Copyright/Source
Eh? To Zed: A Canadian Abecedarium

Major, Kevin. -- Eh? to zed : a Canadian abecedarium. -- Illustrated by Alan Daniel. -- Calgary : Red Deer Press, ©2000. -- [32] p. -- ISBN 0889952221

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This book is teeming with Canadianisms, contemporary and historical, from all parts of the country. Many of the chosen people, places and things are well known, but others are not. All, however, are explained at the back of the book. The text is a clever string of words selected because each begins with a particular letter. These words meander through the alphabet and incredibly, Kevin Major has managed to get it all to rhyme. The illustrations are made up of brightly coloured and playful images, rendered in various styles and media. Together, the text and illustrations provide an entertaining and often humorous look at Canada, offering lots of information on Canada's history, geography and culture.

Cover of book, THE WILDLIFE ABC: A NATURE ALPHABET
Copyright/Source
The Wildlife ABC: A Nature Alphabet

Thornhill, Jan. -- The wildlife ABC : a nature alphabet. -- Toronto : Greey de Pencier Books, ©1988. -- [32] p. -- ISBN 0920775292

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Wild animals abound in this intelligent ABC book. The rhyming text provides a lovely read-aloud rhythm and is accompanied by beautiful illustrations done in gouache and ink on scratchboard. Each illustration is framed in a unique border and depicts typically Canadian animals in both rural and urban settings, throughout the seasons, and in both daytime and nighttime. The learning experience is further enhanced by the inclusion of "Nature Notes" which provide additional information on each animal. The illustration for Z is jam-packed with animals, providing the opportunity for trying to identify them all. If you have trouble, they are named at the back of the book.