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Gordon Lightfoot wrote one of his best-loved songs, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” in Canada’s centennial year, 1967. Lightfoot’s lyrics celebrate the vision and incredible effort that went into building the Canadian Pacific Railroad. They also celebrate the rugged and splendid terrain through which the railroad passes, and their rhythms suggest the desperation, longing, and exultation experienced by those who laboured on it.
Now Ian Wallace, one of Canada’s foremost picture book artists, has produced illustrations worthy of Lightfoot’s song in their intensity, evocative power, and shifting moods. Working in what is for him a new medium (chalk pastels), and creating scenes ranging from mountain landscapes to dream-like collages to humorous interiors, Wallace adds his own impressions of what the railroad has meant to Canada – including its effect on the First Nations and the heavy death toll among labourers.
In fascinating endnotes, Wallace comments on the symbolism and associations the images contain, such as the inclusion of a young Gordon Lightfoot’s likeness among the navvies singing in their bunkhouse as they’re “livin’ on stew and drinkin’ bad whiskey, / Bendin’ our backs ’til the long day is done.”
While the book’s list of suggested reading is aimed at young people, Wallace’s illustrations and his comments on their creation will appeal to adults as well. Melody line and chords are provided, but this beautiful book will doubtless send readers to YouTube to hear Lightfoot sing the song himself.
...heart-stirring... (Kathleen Robinson Calgary Sun 2010-11-23)
In this marvellous and yes, iconic, book, Wallace succeeds in both honouring Lightfoot's song and replaying it in a most original way. (Susan Perren Globe and Mail 2010-10-16)
Wallace lovingly recreates the country from coast to coast. From sketches of the mountains to the Prairies to the Maritimes, the book could almost be used as a tourist brochure. (Mark Medley National Post 2010-10-08)
...masterful... (Bayviews 2010-12-01)
...certain to inspire discussions between older readers and younger listeners about how Canada came to be. (Brenda Hoerle Guelph Mercury 2010-12-17)
...masterful... (Celia Jackson Bayviews 2010-12-01)
This lavishly illustrated book brings Gordon Lightfoot’s heart-stirring song “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” to readers young and old...Ian Wallace brings to the song visual life with his sweeping landscapes and evocative portrayals of the people who lived the building of the railroad. (Books For Everybody 2010-01-09)
Although some paintings show the railway in detail, it's less a book about railroads than it is about the history and settlement of Canada itself....a huge and unusual project, and Wallace has executed it with admirable care. (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW 2010-10-18)
Highly recommended. (Reesa Cohen CM Magazine 2010-10-08)
Well worthwhile for all Canadian school libraries! (Canadian Teacher Magazine 2010-11-01)
...generate[s] 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. (Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children 2011-02-14)
...Ian Wallace...has produced illustrations worthy of Lightfoot's song in their intensity, evocative power, and shifting moods...[a] beautiful book... (Gwyneth Evans Quill and Quire, STARRED REVIEW 2010-10-01)
The atmospheric illustrations ... capture not only the workers’ toil but also the splendor of the Canadian landscape and, obliquely, the price the displaced First Nations people paid for steam-train technology. (Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW 2010-10-01)
I don't know of another more skilled Illustrator who could have done justice to these amazing words than award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace. The visuals are just jaw-dropping spectacular!...Highly recommended. (Reesa Cohen CM Magazine 2010-10-08)
This volume would be a perfect addition to a unit on Canadian history or the building of the railway for any age group...Well worthwhile for all Canadian school libraries! (Canadian Teacher Magazine 2010-11-18)