UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian historical picture books as purveyors of Canadian history and national identity Black, Marilynne V.


The research for this thesis examined 124 Canadian historical picture books, published between 1970 and 2002, in order to examine the degree to which the books reflected Canada. In this way it was possible to determine whether or not Canadian children can develop a sense of history, place, and national identity. Detailed notes, comments, and annotations about each title were made and from these, an extensive database facilitated the identification and classification of these historical picture books in a number of ways. Each title was identified by standard bibliographic information such as author, title, publisher, year, and illustrator. In addition, each title was identified by type: picture book, illustrated story, anthology, or informational narrative, and by genre: historical fiction, social history, heritage books, books with elements of fantasy, biographical, or poetry. Furthermore, such categories as themes and topics, place, significant events, time periods, societal groups, and social issues, helped set the books within historical contexts. A number of Canadian cultural markers such as landscape, plants and animals, weather, Canadian icons, links to founding countries, Canadian government, sports and recreation, multiculturalism, and famous people also placed the books within the context of the Canadian culture. Finally, through the analysis of both text and illustrations the degree of Canadian content was evident. In the face of the growing globalization of the publishing industry, children Canadian need to see themselves and their country reflected in the books they are exposed to in order to develop a sense of history, place and Canadian identity. The historical picture books examined give an adequate portrayal of the depiction of Canadian geography, and in particular the various regions of Canada, that will foster the development of a sense of place. Some of the cultural markers, such as multiculturalism, and several topics, such as family and childhood and immigration, do portray the Canadian culture adequately. However, a less than adequate reflection of Canadian history and identity on the whole would not allow children to develop a strong sense of national identity because of a lack of Canadian cultural markers.

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