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The Boy in the Picture

The Craigellachie Kid and the Driving of the Last Spike

by Ray Argyle

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canada, cultural heritage
list price: $19.99
also available: eBook
published: 2010
publisher: Dundurn
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
12 to 15
7 to 17
Reading age:
12 to 15
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

The Boy in the Picture: The Craigellachie Kid and the Driving of the Last Spike

Few, if any, photographs in Canadian history are as famous as the one showing the hammering of the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. It provides a rich opportunity for storytelling because of the number of people in that iconic photo, including a young boy who somehow managed to find his way into an indelible piece of Canadian history.

Just how did a teenager insert himself between Donald A. Smith, hammering the spike, and Sandford Fleming? Ray Argyle tells the story of Edward Mallandaine, the 18-year-old boy-cum-adventurer, who travelled from BC to the Northwest Territories (now Alberta) hoping to join the militia and be a part of the military force taking down Louis Riel during the Northwest Rebellion in 1885.

As a young boy himself, Argyle got to know the elderly Mallandaine and heard a number of his stories. In this book, he recounts them in fictionalized form with imagined dialogue as we relive Mallandaine’s escapades, whether it is being accosted by thieves while he works to deliver mail by horse, or in his encounters with Dukesang Wong, the Chinese navvy who left behind an extensive written account of his own. This meeting is one of the more interesting set pieces of the book.

More could have been written about the photograph itself, a recounting that takes up just one small chapter of the book. What does this photograph still mean today? How did someone so young and unrelated to the CPR make it in, anyway?

The book’s inset features on selected historical topics related to the CPR are useful. A perusal of the book by teachers would certainly allow them to enhance any lessons related to a study of the photograph itself. Beyond that, the book would most appeal to keen history students in Grade 7, 8 and beyond.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.

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Edward Mallandaine was there! To prove it he thrust himself into the historic photograph of the "Last Spike" being driven to mark the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Surrounded by the railway dignitaries of the time, his young face peers out amid their frosty beards.

Edward had just turned eighteen when he left his home in Victoria, British Columbia, to join the Canadian militia to fight Louis Riel in the North-West Rebellion of 1885. Hired to ride dispatches over the unfinished stretch of railway in British Columbia, he meets highway men, high officials, men of the North-West Mounted Police, and the denizens of saloons hidden away in mountain passes. He survives the lawlessness of remote towns and railway camps, rubs shoulders with Chinese labourers struggling to blast a right-of-way through the towering peaks of Eagle Pass, and makes a freezing midnight ride by railway flatcar to reach the outpost of Craigellachie just in time.

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Contributor notes

Ray Argyle has written for publications such as The Beaver and the National Post and is the author of several books, including Turning Points: The Campaigns That Changed Canada and Scott Joplin and the Age of Ragtime. He lives in Toronto.

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Editorial Reviews

Mr. Argyle tells this Boys Own tale superbly. But then he lived a Tom Sawyer life himself, quitting school at 16 and roaming the country.

— Globe and Mail

It is, admittedly, a book aimed at younger readers, but don't let that sway you. It is still highly readable, and it will help to shed new light on the construction of the railway 125 years ago.

— Victoria Times-Colonist

The Boy in the Picture is a worthwhile addition to school and public libraries across the country

— Canadian Materials Magazine
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About the Author

Ray Argyle

Ray Argyle is a journalist, the author of several books of biography and political history, and the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canadian life. During his long association with France, he has spent many years tracking the political careers of Charles de Gaulle and his successors. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.

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