13 Ways to look at Canada

Front and back covers of I Am Canada, with a listing of all the creators

I Am Canada – A Celebration (North Winds Press, $19.99) has come up with a novel way of assembling an overview of special things about our country. In an author’s note in the back of the book, Heather Patterson explains the vision behind her simple text, which has as few as three words and no more than 20 for each double page spread.

“I wrote this to invite Canadian children to celebrate our country’s cultural diversity, and the diversity of our landscapes and seasons. I want them to celebrate their freedom to explore time and space, knowledge and beauty.”

The novelty here is that most such books would be created by a single person or, at most, a team of two people. Instead, this one has recruited 13 artists to put their individual spins on the brief sentences that set the theme for each double page spread.

The styles range from cartoonish to very realistic, from muted to extremely colourful, from detailed to sketchy, from crowded to open space. They do romp through the seasons, and they are diverse in setting and ethnicity.

To go through a 32-page book (standard length for this target audience) and find such a variety of styles and messages with every turn of the page is quite unusual.

Also unusual, is to find that four pages at the end of the book have been given over to brief creator statements. Each artist is paired with the words they illustrated and they explain why they chose what to show you to go with that idea.

While this is clearly intended as a salute to Canada 150, it’s interesting to note that Patterson first wrote the poem in 1996 and copyrighted it when it was used in a photograph based book in 2006, from the same publisher (Scholastic, of which North Winds is an imprint). Everything else is copyrighted 2017, so it appears to have taken 21 years for the whole idea to come to fruition.

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