________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover Poachers in the Pingos. (Orca Young Readers).

Anita Daher.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
123 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-011-4.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Elizabeth Walker.

** /4

excerpt:

“It’s just a raven!” Colly said, ignoring the thumping of his heart.

But it wasn’t like other ravens. It had blue eyes, like the one he’d seen at the hotel. Maybe it was the same one. After all, how many blue-eyed ravens could there be?

Wings spread, it walked toward them. It screeched again, and Colly covered his ears.

“I hate that bird,” Tommy growled.

It lowered its wings and cocked its head to one side as if listening.

“Watch out, it likes to chew on things,” Tommy said.

“Like what?” Jaz asked.

“Oh, you know, toys, bikes… people.”

Junior Canadian Rangers Colly, Tommy, and Jaz are spending some quality time with Colly’s uncle in Tuktoyaktuk, helping him patrol the coastline and keep an eye on the townsfolk. Spotting a pile of dead gyrfalcons is just the beginning of Colly’s adventures as he and his friends become embroiled in a poaching ring led by Philip, a man who has traveled up north supposedly for the purpose of creating a wind farm, but whose motives turn out to be far from honorable.

    A pingo, by the way, is a dirt-covered mound of ice – they are perfect landforms in which to conceal boats, people and caches, and so they are an intriguing and unexpected setting for a children’s book.

    Anita Daher’s novel is a quick read that has enough action and suspense to keep the pages turning, and no doubt it will keep many young readers entertained. Daher’s prose leaves quite a lot to be desired, however. While she has a good grip on building suspense and has created some nice passages of description – as when Colly feels the sudden truth of a situation “snug up around him like a blanket” – she also relies heavily on direct explication and didacticism, especially in the book’s opening chapters where readers are taught about the Dene people, Arctic geography and pingos point-blank. Moreover, the characters are forgettable; and sadly the setting – which could be a fantastic facet of the book – is completely bland and, at times, confusing. Daher has not yet mastered the art of being able to create locations in her readers’ minds, and consequently many of the complex situations her characters find themselves in are very difficult to picture. Less focus on plot development and more on describing the unique characteristics of the landscape (not to mention the people who call it home) would make Poachers in the Pingos a more memorable read.

    For children who enjoy a bit of escapist fiction with a solid whodunit element, this book fits the bill, but those looking for good character development, evocative setting and exciting language will be disappointed.

Recommended.

Elizabeth Walker is a student in UBC's Master of Arts in Children's Literature program.

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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