________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009


Why Seals Blow Their Noses: Canadian Wildlife in Fact and Fiction.

Diane Swanson. Illustrated by Douglas Penhale.
North Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 1992. 70 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55110-038-X.

Subject Headings:
Zoology-North America-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4



Male hooded seals have big, wrinkly noses that usually hang loosely in front of their mouths. When the seal blows his nose full of air, it forms a high cushion, twice the size of a football. The hooded seal also blows against the skin that separates his nostrils, forming a red “balloon” about 15 centimetres across. As the balloon grows, it sticks out through one of the seal’s nostrils. Hooded seals usually blow their noses during breeding times or when they feel threatened. But sometimes, they blow them when they are just lying around. Scientists think that hooded seals simply enjoy “playing” with their noses.

The subtitle, Canadian Wildlife in Fact and Fiction, targets the approach used to describe the 10 animal groups in this fascinating book. Through a blend of the most interesting life cycle facts (did you know ‘salmon’ means ‘to leap’ in Latin, or that owls have more feathers than most birds?) with original adaptations of old stories, many from the oral tradition of a culture, Swanson shows each animal from several perspectives. It is especially intriguing to note that the stories come from various world locations, showing that many cultures share them: e.g. Norway, Sweden and Canada all have a tale that explains how bears got short tails. The stories are a mix of well-known legends, such as that of Romulus and Remus being raised by wolves, and some that may not be so familiar: why burrowing owls have spots, why whales blow clouds.

internal art      Each chapter concludes with a brief paragraph describing the effects of animal and human interactions and what efforts are being made to protect the animals in their habitats. Species include eagles, ravens, beavers, salmon, seals, bats, among others.

     The large format and easy to read presentation style used in Why Seals Blow Their Noses are inviting and involving. The book’s contents give young readers a chance to get to know the animals from a realistic viewpoint as well as an imaginative one. The book makes good reading for leisure interest and a starting point for further study. The book is illustrated in detailed black and white sketches. Douglas Penhale is skilled at bringing the animals to life whether it be in realistic pose or the animated style needed to show personality of the animal character in a specific tale.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC..

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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