________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 38 . . . . June 4, 2010

cover

The Northern Environment. (Exploring the Canadian Arctic).

Heather Kissock & Leia Tait.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-965-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-961-8 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Natural history-Canada, Northern-Juvenile literature.
Canada, Northern-Environmental conditions-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4

   
cover

Northern Industries. (Exploring the Canadian Arctic).

Heather C. Hudak.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-963-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-959-5 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Industries-Canada, Northern-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4

   
cover

People of the North. (Exploring the Canadian Arctic).

Heather Kissock & Audrey Huntley.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-962-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-958-8 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Inuit-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4

   
cover

Plants and Animals of the North. (Exploring the Canadian Arctic).

Heather C. Hudak.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-964-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-960-1 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Plants-Canada, Northern-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Canada, Northern-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4

excerpt:

Steps are being taken to ensure that traditional languages survive this transition. Much of this effort is being put into teaching the language to younger generations. The Pigiarvik program has been developed to preserve, protect, and promote the Inuktitut language among young Inuit. This is being done in a variety of ways. One of the most important steps is the interviewing of Inuit elders. These interviews pass the language along to younger generations and transfer traditional Inuit knowledge and stories so that the Inuit way of life is retained. Much of the information from these interviews is being digitized through websites, CDs, and other technology to ensure its longevity. Finally, a series of magazines is being developed for northern classrooms that relay Inuit traditions to Inuit children in the Inuktitut language. (From People of the North.)

 

Readers should not be deceived by these light, thin books, for between their covers these titles contain a wealth of information about Canada’s North. Comprising the “Exploring the Canadian Arctic” series, these four titles not only discuss the geography, climate, wildlife, industries and people of the area “north of 60”, but they also make readers aware of the challenging issues facing this fast-changing environment. Each title has 14 chapters as well as a 10-question quiz found at the back of the book. “Check This Out” boxes provide URLs for websites related to the topic while charts compare life in the north long ago to present-day conditions. Brief, firsthand accounts are provided by explorers, scientists and others while several topics have special related features. As well, each book presents a different issue for readers to ponder. A table of contents, a glossary, an index and a list of books and websites for further research are also included.

     The text is very current, its information carefully selected, not only to provide facts, but also to help readers gain an appreciation for the North and its precarious environment. Illustrations include charts, maps, diagrams, and wonderful colour photographs. Vibrant covers and an attractive layout are sure to add to the visual appeal.

     The Northern Environment introduces readers to the area north of 60° latitude which covers 40% of Canada’s total land mass and is the world’s largest archipelago. This area consists of mountains, polar sea ice, glaciers, and landforms such as pingos, cirques and tors. Environmental concerns - global warming and pollution, for example - have threatened this fragile habitat. The book provides a scientific explanation of how global warming is affecting the Arctic and gives several examples. In one instance, the cotton grass blooms are flowering sooner than usual, and this plant phase comes too early for migrating caribou, thus depriving them of food, while both the thawing of the permafrost, which releases more carbon dioxide into the air, and land development destroy lichens (also a favourite food of caribou) which take a forest between 80-150 years to produce. In addition, 20 plants are at risk of disappearing entirely. The book also includes the Aboriginal people’s response to the environmental crisis. Rankin Inlet’s increasing use of wind turbines and solar energy makes the community a leader in ecology. A chart compares ice coverage, land development and temperature from the mid 1970s to the present, while an activity at the back of the book is designed to show readers how permafrost works.

     Northern Industries begins with a brief history of northern exploration whose purpose, originally, was to locate the Northwest Passage, a quicker route to Asia and Europe. With the melting of the polar ice cap in recent years, the shipping route has widened, and this has factored heavily in the dispute among the U.S., Europe and Canada over proprietary claims, even though Canada has declared sovereignty over the area. The discovery of oil, gas, diamonds, emeralds, gold and other minerals in the North has led to land development which reduces native hunting grounds. This has forced Aboriginal groups to stake land claims which provide the people with more control over northern development. Examples of other topics in this title include eco-tourism, the issue of the seal hunt, and the formation of cooperatives by Inuit artists who produce traditional arts and crafts such as masks, prints and sculpture. Finally, there is brief information about 10 national parks.

     About 100,000 people live in Canada’s North, with Aboriginals representing between 25 and 85% of the population, depending on the area. Following a brief history of the migration of the early nomadic peoples who first lived in the Arctic, People of the North contains information about the northern lifestyle which is a blend of old and new. One example is the use of snowmobiles for hunting and transportation. With the influx of people who gain employment in new industries, the need for goods and services increases. Many towns now boast modern shopping malls, movie theatres and satellite links to other parts of the world. At issue, however, are the damaging effects of industry on the environment and the preservation of Aboriginal languages and traditional ways. A chart compares modern versus traditional ways in terms of language, religion, housing and water and winter travel, while a double-page spread features several native groups- the Inuit, Métis, Gwich’In, Dene, Tlingit and the Northern Tutchone. Readers can also learn to say a half dozen words in Inuktitut.

     Finally, Plants and Animals of the North describes the North’s three major biomes- the Arctic tundra, the boreal forest and the polar seas. Despite its cold, dry environment, this area is teeming with life. In fact, the Arctic seas are home to some of the world’s unique animals. Illustrations in this book include a map indicating the different biome areas and a diagram depicting three different food chains, one for each of the biomes. Examples of physical and behavioural adaptations that help plants and animals to survive in this harsh environment are provided, some of which are the insulating properties of dense, thick fur and blubber of some mammals, and the ability of the mountain avens plant to reflect heat via its light-coloured petals to the dark centre. As is typical of the titles in the series, this book describes the problems of habitat loss due to human activity, such as land development projects, global warming and pollution. Because the thickness of the polar ice has been reduced by 30%, walruses are challenged to find ice that will support their heavy weight. Even small changes can have a dramatic, drastic impact on wildlife. For instance, a single tire track can destroy plants that have been growing for centuries. Endangered animals include the beluga whale, the whooping crane and the Peary Caribou. Eight wildlife sanctuaries are listed along with a short list of facts about each one. At the back of the book is an experiment which can be done at home using common household items. Readers can make a blubber bag out of lard and plastic sandwich bags to demonstrate the insulating properties of a variety of glove materials.

     Well written and thought-provoking, this timely series take a serious look at the changing dynamics of Canada’s northern environment.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

NEXT REVIEW |TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - June 4, 2010.

AUTHORS | TITLES | MEDIA REVIEWS | PROFILES | BACK ISSUES | SEARCH | CMARCHIVE | HOME