by Per-Henrik Gürth

Oh, Canada! is the fourth installment in Kids Can’s series of picture books on Canada aimed at early readers, and the second one both written and illustrated by Per-Henrik Gürth (the first two were written by Kim Bellefontaine).

Per-Henrik Gürth_Oh CanadaThe dust jacket calls Oh, Canada! a “whirlwind tour of Canada to discover all there is to see and do,” though the term “whirlwind” might be pushing it. The introduction gives some basic facts about Canada, including official languages, the symbolism of its flag, and the origins of its name from the Wendat-Haudenosaunee Kanata. (A phonetic breakdown would have been useful to the hapless reader here, or at least an explanation that this is a First Nations group.)

The book goes through each province and territory, showing, on one page, the flag, official bird, tree, and flower, with the facing pages depicting a full-page scene featuring one iconic activity. There is picnicking at Peggy’s Cove, fishing in Lake Winnipeg, glacier-hiking in the Yukon, and a visit to Niagara Falls.

Gürth’s style is strongly reminiscent of British illustrator Lucy Cousins, builder of the ubiquitous and hugely successful Maisy Mouse empire. Both employ a two-dimensional “naïve” graphic look relying on bold, mostly primary colours and simple, chunky characters outlined in black. Text is in a handwritten typeface and kept to a minimum.

Oh, Canada!, like Gürth’s other books, is cheerful without being exactly charming. The inclusion of simple category headings like “provincial flag/flower” above these images would have helped contextualize them for the child-reader without sacrificing the book’s pared-down quality. There is also too much overlap between the installments in this series to make them desirable as a complete collection, although any one of them provides a useful introduction to basic Canadian iconography.

—Emily Donaldson