CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007
Out and About With the Big Tree Gang. (Orca Echoes).
Jo Ellen Bogart & Jill Bogart. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
58 pp., pbk., $6.95.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Saache Heinrich.
Keely, Reg, Shawna and Burt were sitting under a tall oak tree beside the schoolhouse. It was a cold Friday in late autumn. They were all bundled up in scarves, hats and mittens.
"Wow, I can’t believe that it’s almost time for the Nutfest vacation," said Burt. "I can’t wait to eat all of those pies and tarts and cakes!"
"I’m excited too," said Keely. "I like it when we get a break from school. It’s almost like summer, except for the snow, of course."
"That’s what I’m looking forward to," said Shawna. "I love the snow! I love to build forts and have snowball fights."
"You’re forgetting the best thing about snow," said Reg. "Sledding! I can’t wait to get out my Flying Fish again!"
A fat snowflake landed right on Burt’s nose.
"Hey!" said Shawna. "The first snowflake of winter! Maybe it heard us talking about it and decided to come visit."
We first met nature-loving twins Reg and Keely and their friends, Burt and Shawna, in The Big Tree Gang. Out and About with the Big Tree Gang is another “Orca Echoes” early reader chapter book containing a collection of five stories involving the four animal friends and their adventures.
Each chapter contains a story pertaining to events centered in autumn or winter. Beginning with an outdoor walk at the end of summer, the book unfolds with the friends’ heading into the fall season with the Harvest Festival play and then the Nutfest vacation. As the seasons change, their experiences are drawn from the wonders of the outdoors, from the milkweed seedpod and horse chestnut that Keely collects for their scavenger hut to the pinecone jump in the snow that Reg creates. Through the characters, we are reminded of the merits of each season. When Keely laments from bed that the leaves are getting old and she wants the sun to return so she can swim and have some fun, Reg reminds her that "Just because it’s getting cold doesn’t mean that we can’t still have fun." Indeed, the authors and illustrator have highlighted the thrills and delights that Mother Nature can bring.
This book is ideal for young readers venturing into chapter reading. It features short sentences with chapters at six or seven pages long with plenty of illustrations to break up the text. The language is easily accessible, and, with loveable characters and enough adventure to spur the reader on, young readers should delight in this story.
The pencilled illustrations, drawn by Dean Griffiths, are detailed and wonderfully drawn. Each chapter contains between two to four full-page black-and-white illustrations with several smaller pictures scattered throughout the book. Griffiths’ artwork captures the expressions of each character as well as delightfully depicts the ensuing adventures in which the friends find themselves caught up.
Well-known Canadian author Jo Ellen Bogart is a self-proclaimed animal lover with an appreciation for nature. Together with her daughter, she has co-authored an endearing story about four friends who find wonder and excitement in a world filled with nature. By choosing not to set the story in the technology-laden world in which kids today find themselves, it is refreshing to read of adventures filled with the more simpler things in childhood like scavenger hunts and the excitement of waiting for the first snowfall with hopes of sledding and building snowmen.
Saache Heinrich is a children’s services librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.
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