Mordecai: The Life & Times
by Charles Foran (Knopf Canada, 2010)
Remind students that a biography is a narrative about one real person’s life written by another person. To create the narrative, a biographer researches and interprets factual evidence about the character, milieu, experiences, and achievements of his or her subject.
Then ask students to recall biographies they have read—or seen in movies or on television—and recall what made those biographies memorable.
You could use the following questions to open a discussion about biographies, and encourage students to suggest additional questions.
• What are some differences between a biography and a fictional narrative like a short story or a novel (e.g., a biographer has to deal with facts; a fiction writer can make up all the elements of a story)?
• What are some questions that a biographer has to research and answer? How and where does a biographer find his or her material?
• How would a biographer use the elements of narrative — plot, characters, theme, tone, setting — to shape researched material into a coherent story?
• What skills would a successful biographer need to have (e.g., inquiry, research, and analysis skills; planning skills; interpretive and storytelling skills)?
See the teaching resource for more lesson ideas.
Cross-curricular Suggestions: History and Social Studies
Students could study Mordecai to extend their historical perspective on the way people in the past experienced their physical, social, and cultural environments. Foran’s biography will also help students appreciate how Canadian culture, especially that of Montreal, helped shape an important writer of the twentiethth century and how he, in turn, influenced Canadian culture and identity.