Aida Hudson &
Susan-Ann Cooper, editors,
Windows & Words:
A Look at Canadian Children's
Literature in English

(University of Ottawa Press, 2003)

In the introduction to this book edited by Aida Hudson and Susan-Ann Cooper, we read that in 1999 a group of Canadian scholars and writers met to examine what literary legacy existed in the past, in the present and for the future of the children of Canada.

The book is a collection of 17 studies, formal essays and commentaries. Issues touched on include age boundaries, protection of childhood, artistry and illustration, writer L.M. Montgomery, multi-culturalism, the aboriginal voice in adolescent fiction, and it goes on and on.

I enjoyed the entry by Tim Wynne-Jones. It was the opening presentation with a speech on the "difference between writing for adults and children." He was insightful, and informative and also entertaining.

By contrast some of the entries are almost painful to read. The author may have been an engaging speaker, but the words on the written page alone seemed so boringly academic and of little consequence to anyone but the person who wrote them that I felt a strong sense of my time being wasted while reading this book. Some are so highly imaginative and strung out that it's beyond reason to think anyone would take them seriously. Or pay them for it.

I expected that this book would be of use to aspiring writers for children, or that it would talk about children and their enjoyment of certain literature. For the most part, however, there is little studied connection to the term "children" at all.

Instead it seems to have been an L.M. Montgomery fest. I did think that the piece on Wordsworth's "Gentle Breeze" was worth perusing and Beverly Haun's "Rise of the Aboriginal Voice in Canadian Adolescent Fiction" was poignant and a very significant inclusion.

The many translations of "Little Red Riding Hood" were interesting, but I didn't quite catch how appropriate it was to the theme since that was designated specifically as "in English."

What I did find notable were the references to early Canadian publications that I hadn't heard of. Are they literature in the true sense of the word? I wouldn't try to convince anyone, but all of the British works we were forced to read years ago cannot be considered Canadian literature, either. Or can it be since it was almost all that Canadian children read? So the book in one instance does invoke questions.

A series of academic essays in presentations, and here they are, made into a book. For enjoyment of academic readers? Yes, as I assume printing it means someone will enjoy it. For writers? Maybe, in a stretch. For folk readers in general? No, unless you have a Red Riding Hood or L.M. Montgomery fetish. That's the extent of how this book fits on a folk-culture website.

by Virginia MacIsaac
7 January 2006

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