Canadian historical non-fiction

Excellent Canadian nonfiction

We’ve found a few books of Canadian history this year that we can heartily recommend. We’ve used all three as read alouds. It works best in this house of kids who learn best by listening.

“Canada Moves West”, the omnibus edition, by Pierre Berton is a compilation of 5 shorter books previously published separately. I reviewed it already here, but am reporting back to say that it is not just the history-loving-mama in this house that is enjoying this book. Everyone is.

This is a rollicking good read. Berton has an eye for detail, choosing stories and characters that bring an event to life. Facts that are usually talked about in dry, broad terms suddenly leap to life full of heroism, preposterous ambition, clashing personalities, and tragic juxtapositions.

The book chronicles the flood of immigration that changed the prairies and the outlandishly ambitious railway that made that possible. This is a book that boys will love. It’s not a “boy book”, but those of us with non-bookish boys know that many books which are gender neutral still often fail to interest our lads.


The next two books are part of the Canadians series put out by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. “Gabriel Dumont” and “Louis Riel” are both solid biographies for middle-school and (easy) high school levels. (They’re slim books, but with a small font and a complex vocabulary, so unless your 10 year old is a strong reader, I’d say they’re not right for that age.)

What I have read of this series of Canadian biographies is excellent. They are written by different authors with different styles and levels of complexity. Compellingly written, the right level of detail, solid history. They read aloud very well, unfortunately unusual in Canadian non-fiction.

The series is maddeningly difficult to track down in list form. The best I can find is this list from Canadian Home Education Resources, although the back of my books list 30 books in the series.


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