Title: Canadian Railroad Trilogy
Author: Gordon Lightfoot
Illustrator: Ian Wallace
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Concepts: capital resources, transportation, technological change
Review: "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," a song by acclaimed singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, describes the construction of Canada's transcontinental railroad back in the late 1800s. The song was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Commission for a special broadcast in 1967 commemorating Canada's centennial anniversary. This book uses the lyrics to inspire an artistic display, created with handmade chalk pastels and gray pastel paper, of the motivation behind the railroad, the hard manual labor of the "navvies" who built the track, and the displacement of the Métis and First Nations people from their land.
Unusual in a picture book, the illustrator, Ian Wallace, takes the opportunity to provide the reader with insights into the historical background, symbolism, and vision of each illustration. These notes, together with a brief history of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the end of the book, can help teachers and parents use the verses and artwork to generate an interesting discussion with young learners about how railroad construction has contributed to economic development through the movement of people, goods, and even information across long distances. Equally important is the book's lesson about the high costs not only in financial terms, but also in terms of environmental disruptions, discriminatory treatment of the Chinese workers, and the loss of land for Canada's first people.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children