________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005


Before and After: A Book of Nature Timescapes.

Jan Thornhill.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 1997/2005.
32 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-897066-28-7.

Subject Heading:
Habitat (Ecology)-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 6 / Ages 4-11.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4



First published in hardcover in 1997, this paperback edition might seem at first glance like a simple concept book on the passage of time in different scenes. But the superbly creative Thornhill has fashioned a gem that is so much more in one package - full of intriguing art, information, puzzles, and even an identification game. In her forward, she explains her choice of title, Nature's Timescapes, "because of the ways that time changes nature's landscapes all over the world—from the deepest forest to your own school yard."

internal art     The text consists of a simple label of what landscape is pictured, for example "Tropical Coral Reef" with the word "Before" in bold letters. When the reader turns the page, a bold "After" appears with an explanation as to the time passed. Other environments so wondrously and uniquely explored by Thornhill are the Savannah, the Forest Edge, the Wetland, the Meadow, the Rain Forest. The passage of time in these changing habitats ranges from a few minutes, an hour, a day, to a year. One of my personal favourites is the "School Yard." In the before picture, we see a school yard in transition being created, ready for landscaping with trees and vegetables to be planted, bird feeders to be built, and planters in the process of construction. After a year, we find a flourishing garden full of birds and plant life, in the author's words in her Nature Notes, "an oasis buzzing with life." Each environment is encased by Thornhill's trademark borders, full of animal life, insects and birds indigenous to the landscape featured in the double page illustration. All of these species can be found in their natural setting of the before and after scenes, in different action shots, with some new animals appearing and others disappearing. It is simply an abundance of nature!

internal art     These are bold, colourful visuals that beg to be "read." No quick perusal here. This is one to savour and return to again and again. The landscapes and their inhabitants will pull readers in to further study each one. I confess that I was totally enchanted and stared for long periods at each picture, intrigued by the dazzling, irresistibly detailed paintings, flipping back and forth to see the differences in each habitat, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious.

     This talented author/illustrator, true to her innovative style and fresh approach in design, has created a fascinating look at environments that surge with life and energy.

     The nature notes at the end of the book supply further information on each habitat and of the changes, big and small, that the reader will find.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is an Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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