Growing up Elizabeth May, written by Sylvia Olsen and Cate May Burton

Growing up Elizabeth May: The Making of an Activist
written by Sylvia Olsen and Cate May Burton
Orca Book Publishers, 2021
978-1-4598-237-09 (pb) $24.95
for Grades 4 and up

Non-fiction | Biography | Elizabeth May | Female Politicians | Environmental Activism | Activism

Inspired by her mother’s activism and determination, Elizabeth May grew up believing she had a duty to ‘fix things’ she perceived as wrong. Part biography, part motivation for budding young activists, this title follows the natural transition of Elizabeth’s career from early passionate environmentalist to the leader of the Canadian Green party in 2006. Personal stories from her early life reveal events that influenced her career and intermingle with encouraging messages for and by potential change-makers, with perspectives from Elizabeth’s daughter, Cate.

Accompanied by photos of her childhood in Connecticut to her adult life in Canada, Elizabeth’s story highlights specific, often touching issues such as the mysterious death of pet sheep and the plight of Japanese nuclear bomb victims that ignited her passion to right wrongs. The complexity of her role as an environmentalist is compared to those of detective, scientist, journalist, historian and linguist combined.

Written in an easily readable style, biographical information is supplemented with Elizabeth’s conversational ‘Advice for Future Activists.’ There are also opinions and poetry from young conservationists and references to inspirational figures such as Martin Luther King and Rachel Carson. Numerous factoids, an abundance of photos, a glossary, an index, and a resource list all provide added value. Finally, an inspirational ‘Sparks’ list suggests many small actions to spark awareness, discussion and change. With its variety and layout, the presentation is an invitation to browse and be inspired.

Elizabeth’s message, ‘Be brave, be smart… we can do this,” sums up her life, making the achievement of young ambitions seem tangible.

Aileen Wortley is a retired Children’s Librarian from Toronto

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