________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 11 . . . . November 11, 2011


Selina: An Atlantic Salmon.

Don Downer. Illustrated by Giséle LeBlanc-Turner.
Sydney, NS: Cape Breton University Press, 2011.
37 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-897009-57-4.

Subject Headings:
Atlantic salmon-Juvenile literature.
Atlantic salmon-Life cycles-Juvenile literature.
Salmon-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Roxy Garstad.

**** /4



One day, while in a deep part of the stream with several other salmon fry, she came face to face with a large slimy eel. At first, the eel did not move, but seeing a good dinner so close, it made a lunge for Selina. She darted away just in time. It had been a close call. Selina watched as others who were swimming with her disappeared into the eel’s huge mouth.

In this re-edited and redesigned edition of Selina: An Atlantic Salmon, author Don Downer recounts the life story of an Atlantic salmon, from immovable egg to adventurous adult. The reader learns of the many obstacles – human-made and natural – that Selina experiences throughout her life, such as life-threatening encounters with ice fishers, poachers, and human debris, and the challenging interactions with her environment, including icebergs, difficult-to-navigate waters, and vicious predatory animals. While the negative impact of humans on Selina’s environment has its place in the story, it is –refreshingly – not over-emphasized, and the reader learns that the natural environment presents more significant challenges to a vulnerable fish than do humans.

internal art

      Downer’s writing style is clear and comprehensible, yet challenging enough for readers in the recommended age range. Potentially difficult words, such as “homing instinct,” “kype,” and “parr marks,” are highlighted in bold, with extensive definitions provided within a five-page glossary near the back of the book. Some of the more challenging concepts or words are pictured, such as an illustration of an alevin which represents one of the stages in the salmon life cycle.

      Illustrations by Giséle LeBlanc-Turner not only contribute to an understanding of the text but are aesthetically pleasing. In what appears to be a combination of ink and watercolour, LeBlanc-Turner accurately captures Selina’s experiences in muted greens, blues, and grays. While most of the illustrations are presented in a realistic style, the artist includes more abstract images, adding variation, interest, and unconventionality.

      For what could potentially be a tedious and lackluster topic to some young children – the life cycle of a salmon – Downer and LeBlanc-Turner provide captivating text and appealing illustrations that are sure to seize the attention of young children and parents alike.

Highly Recommended.

Roxy Garstad is a science librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.

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

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