You wouldn’t necessarily put the phrases ‘rollicking, rousing, rambunctious’ and ‘western Canadian history’ in the same sentence, would you?
You probably were taught, as I was, in earnest tones, that the Canadian west was settled with calmness, politeness, and an orderly sense of…order. There were Mounties, after all, earnestly delivering the mail when not making diplomatic negotiations between settlers and First Nations tribes or seeing to it that the whiskey traders had no fun at all. Perhaps you were earnestly left with the feeling that the American west was such a startling chaos that the Dominion of Canada earnestly saw to it that we had no stories worth telling.
Imagine my delight to learn that the truth of history applies even here in the Canadian west. (The truth of history is firstly that people are interesting and do even ordinary things with great eccentricity at times. Secondly, extraordinary things happen more than many textbook authors believe.)
Then imagine my delight to learn that a master writer has written the perfect book of rousing and lucid history for young adults.
Canada Moves West, Pierre Berton
He makes you see both the sweep of history and the people of history, and you can’t help wanting more.* He writes, for instance, of a time when two provinces claimed jurisdiction over a frontier town loaded with railway workers and gamblers and the competing police forces were more danger to each other than the criminals. He writes of the madness of the plans for the railway and the staggering personalities that accomplished it. He explains the dreams of the settlers and the challenges of immigrating to the prairie. I agree completely with the Goodreads evaluation which says that while the reading level is Gr 5 and up, the interest level goes all the way to adulthood.
If you like people, read this book.
If you like history, read this book.
If you like stories, read this book.
If you’re a Canadian homeschooler, buy this book.
* That said, I’m a book-junkie, history-loving homeschooling mother. We’ll ask my kids for their review later in the year.