Jane Lind presents ...
A Canadian ABC
Theme: Canada's Story, Ages 5 to 8
A Canadian ABC
A four-line verse for each letter of the alphabet, along with one of
MacDonald's pen and ink drawings, makes up each of the spreads in the first
section of this book. In the second section, Lyn Cook offers free-form poems
using the subject for each letter of the alphabet and playing with some of
the same lines found in the simple quatrains of the first section.
With this technique, the author offers children an example of the fluidity
of language, its different forms for the same subject matter. At the same
time, they absorb something of the flavour of their own country because the
poems are about the landscape, the people and their activities in the
The book throughout is purely Canadian, from the apples to be picked from
our trees to zooming over ice and snow in zero weather. MacDonald's
illustrations, as the publisher explains in the introduction, might be
considered "out-of-date" and "out-of-fashion" but they offer readers a taste
of drawings from the twenties and thirties, a piece of Canadian art history
that can be explored with students.
Thoreau MacDonald, an illustrator, designer, and painter, was the son of
Group of Seven founder, J.E.H. MacDonald. Because he was colour blind,
Thoreau worked mainly in black and white. He produced illustrations for the
Ryerson Press and The Canadian Forum, drawings typical of Canadian
illustrations during the 1920s and 1930s.
These ideas can be used over a period of time in the classroom--you can
return to the book over and over on different days.
1. Read the poems aloud to your class, and let the children who are able
take turns reading different pages.
2. Read the poems in pairs from the first and second sections, and talk
about the differences in the two.
3. Select and re-read the poems that include the name of a place and
identify these on the map of Canada: Kicking Horse (on the B.C.-Alberta
border; the name came from the leader of an expedition in 1858, Sir James
Hector, being kicked in the chest by a packhorse), Niagara, Ottawa
(Outaouak), Quebec, Yukon.
4. Re-read the poems and identify the locations of each, that is, which part
of the country and the specific place (example: orchard, beach, forest).
5. Let each child choose the poem that begins with the same letter as her or
his given name. The children can copy their poems and make a new
illustration to go with it.
6. Let the children choose the letter that begins their family name and
write a poem for that letter and illustrate it.
Theme Catalogue and Teaching Guide for Children's Books
written for Penumbra Press by Jane Lind
© Jane Lind