CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 19 . . . . May 11, 2007
The wild animals depicted in this novel are kept as raw and natural as possible. There are a few exceptions, and in one scene Roderick describes the hatred a particularly mean old cougar feels towards dogs and its desire to kill out of pure hatred rather than for survival. Animals may vary in size and temperament and the experiences which shape their disposition.
The human characters are incidental and all admirable, their characters minutely depicted in stark contrast with the wild animals that populate the story. David Milton, a local man who hunts cougars for a living, is the human character that emerges the most often throughout the novel. Haig-Brown describes him in a delightful manner, his physical attributes taking on deeper meanings, revealing his true character:
Throughout the novel, the inevitable questions are: Will Ki-Yu battle a man? Will a man be killed in this novel by a cougar? The depictions of the killings are brutal and graphic, and such a scene might certainly alienate many readers.
Man and animal face off, and for once, the outcome is unexpected. This isn't an epic tale of a hunter's quest to make the big kill or to avenge the death of a loyal hound. It reads more realistically as the tale of a life and death of a cougar. The story defies the happy endings, or divine justice, that popular culture has trained us to expect from children's nature stories. Often the wild animals clash so brutally that limbs are snapped by the force of jaws. The slow and feverish half-starved decline of a wounded animal is not skipped over either. At times, the book seemed long, the terrible reality of survival becoming bleak and too much to sustain reading. However, without even realizing it, one learns a great deal about the natural life of cougars and other creatures of the forest. The little tidbits about how cougars find mates, hunt, travel and co-exist with other animals reveal the knowledge of the author. For this, Haig-Brown credits five years in the forest and 14 months in the acquaintance of a real life cougar hunter.
Thrilling and bloody, deliciously suspenseful, Panther will appeal widely to reluctant readers and those desiring an escape the everyday and the mundane of urban life.
Alicia Jinkerson is a children's librarian with North Vancouver District Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.