________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 3. . . .September 17, 2010


The Last Loon. (Orca Young Readers).

Rebecca Upjohn.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
126 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-292-7.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**˝ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I glued my eyes back to the binoculars and watched the bird bob on the waves. Then it dipped headfirst into the water and slipped out of sight. I watched and waited, but there was no sign of it. “Where is it?”

“It’s probably diving for food,” Aunt Mag said. “Loons can stay under for a minute or so, and it may come up quite far from where it dove. Loons are master swimmers. And they can be pretty tricky if they don’t want to be seen.”

I scanned the water. Nothing.

Maybe this one had learned how to turn invisible. That’s what you get in the wilderness. You think you’re going to see moose and beavers and stuff, but all you get are bug bites and boredom…

When the grandmother of 11-year-old Evan Kemp breaks her hip, Evan’s mother must take care of her. Since Evan’s father has just taken a job at a diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, Evan is forced to spend his Christmas Break with his Aunt Mag who lives in an isolated cabin “a zillion miles from anywhere.” He is not thrilled because she has a “shady past” and has actually spent time in jail! What is he going to do out in the middle of nowhere with this strange woman who is his aunt?

     At first, Evan hates everything about the cabin and his eccentric aunt – the isolation, the food and the chores. However, when his aunt starts sharing the details of her scientific work with animals, he starts to change his attitude. They are both fascinated by the last loon to leave the lake before it freezes, fearing that the bird will die.

      Aunt Mag introduces Evan to her friends (Mac and his children, Cedar, Kait and Trinnie, and her fellow researcher, Peter Spencer), and Evan starts to enjoy his time in the wilderness. He cuts down a Christmas tree with Cedar’s family. He participates in a game of hockey. He almost falls into the frozen lake. He even starts to enjoy Aunt Mag’s company and learns to clean up after himself. However, Evan’s recklessness has not entirely disappeared. When he sees the loon in trouble out on the frozen lake, he ventures out with Cedar to try to save him. Will they survive?

      In this novel from the “Orca Young Readers” series, Rebecca Upjohn’s protagonist, Evan Kemp, changes from an obnoxious and rude houseguest to become a caring and brave crusader for an endangered loon. Readers also will be interested to learn about Aunt Mag’s ecologically responsible lifestyle in the isolated woods and her arrest for defending a Spotted Turtle against a smuggler.

      The short chapters and accessible vocabulary will make this novel a good choice for readers who have made the transition to chapter books. The writer explores themes of: relationships, environmental responsibility, loon and wolf biology, animal rights, biodiversity, renewable energy sources, sustainability and the ecology of Canada’s North.


Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.

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

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