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Edited by Lori Labatt and Bruce Littlejohn
Willowdale (Ont.), Firefly Books/Wildlands League, 1992. 287pp, cloth, $35.00
ISBN 1-895565-10-3. (Henderson Book series, 17). CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Robert Haxton.

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

Islands of Hope: Ontario's Parks and Wilderness was produced by a citizens group called the Wildlands League in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Ontario park system in 1993. It consists of 130 mainly full-page photographs interspersed with essays. The photographs, which are evocative rather than descriptive, have been taken by some of the best photographers in this business, Freeman Patterson and Courtney Milne, for example. The principal photographers, Bruce Littlejohn and Lori Labatt, are directors of the Wildlands League, and have long been associated with the protection and promotion of parklands. The writers, such as Monte Hummel (Head of the World Wildlife Fund Canada) and John Livingston, are similarly intimately associated with their subjects.

The work includes a map, four chapters on the history and nature of the system, and two others entitled "Youth and Nature" and "Thoughts for the Future." It is one of a series made possible by a donation from Mrs. Arthur T. Henderson. In addition, it has had the "generous support" of a number of corporate donors, government bodies and "friends."

What bothers me about this and similar subsidized but still relatively expensive artistic presentations purporting to sensitize the unaware to a public concern is the ambiguity of the relationship between the product and the audience. In this format, it is unlikely to reach a wide audience. It doesn't lend itself to use in a school, which strikes one as the most fertile ground for this message, nor is it apt to be picked up by the general public. It seems more likely destined for the coffee tables of the rich converted. One can't help but feel that this is a case of the medium not fitting the message.

Beautiful photographs interspersed with essays promote environmental sensitivity in a coffee table book format.

Robert Haxton is a former librarian in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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