cover image Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Gordon Lightfoot, illus. by Ian Wallace, Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $24.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-88899-953-5

Wallace's (The Sleeping Porch) sprawling, dreamlike paintings pay homage to the Canadian landscape; they accompany the lyrics of Lightfoot's 1967 song, which run along beneath the spreads. Mountains, forests, coastline, and plains roll past as on a railway journey—miles of lonely wilderness the Canadian Pacific Railway was built to span. There are dark moments, too, portraits of the First Nations peoples whose land the onrushing railroad violated, and of the poorly paid and shamefully treated Chinese workers who built its westernmost end. 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. Lightfoot's lyric is a hymn to ambition: "Oh the song of the future has been sung,/ All the battles have been won,/ On the mountain tops we stand,/ All the world at our command." But despite such sentiments, Wallace doesn't avoid showing the realities of the railway workers' lives; they can be seen drinking and carousing as well as swinging hammers. It's a huge and unusual project, and Wallace has executed it with admirable care. Ages 4–up. (Nov.)