Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, Japan Foundation Fellow 1991-92, and the author of
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Home and As Though Life Mattered:
Leo Kennedy’s Story.
These latest volumes in the Nature Canada series are clear, concise, and
superbly illustrated, and serve as attractive introductions to their
fields. The books feature 30 Canadian species (15 birds and 15
endangered species), and show how the impact of human behavior on their
habits and habitat is putting each species at risk.
Each entry begins with eight lines of rhyming verse. These are not
likely to win a poetry contest, but the rhymes (often comic) and the
whimsy serve as mnemonic devices. I prefer Mastin’s straightforward
prose, which is full of the kind of detail attractive to young readers.
The loon, for example, has “a weird and crazy holler” (this is part
of a verse, and rhymes with “Canadian dollar”); geese mate for life;
crows can walk, ravens hop. Each entry occupies two facing pages, with
Jan Sovak’s art covering both and the brief text fitted in. The books
merit top marks for design.
Jan Sovak’s illustrations combine accurate depictions with elegant
composition, gorgeous color, fine detail, and high drama. A great-horned
owl is shown at the last second before it kills. An eagle stares the
reader in the eye, as its feathers and the stalk of a plant catch the
light. Sovak also uses humor, but drama and beauty are his strengths.
This excellent series is highly recommended for elementary-school,
public, and home libraries.