________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 27 . . . . March 16, 2012


Red Pines on the Ridge. 2nd. ed.

Leon E. Pavlick & Ann M. Pavlick. Illustrated by Lissa Calvert.
Victoria, BC: Friesen Press, 2011.
33 pp., pbk., $18.99.
ISBN 978-1-77067-598-8.

Subject Heading:
Norway Pine-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4



Today I am part of a small grove; once I was part of an endless forest. My close kin, jack pine, outnumbered by far all other tree species on my ridge. Trembling aspens stood beside me; when the air refused to be still their leaves harmonized with mine; when visitors came, our leaves competed for attention: Each year as these naked trees of winter again flushed with green leaves, Seneca snakeroot splashed the ridge with white blooms. Under the summer sun, wild bergamot flowered, and pin cherries, chokecherries and blueberries offered their fruit to all they could entice. Bearberry and wintergreen hugged the ground and displayed their fruit much longer. As autumn approached, red squirrels and blue jays noisily raided the hazelnut thickets. Then the aspen turned to gold.

In a evocatively written text that closely resembles prose poetry, the principal author, Leon Pavlick, relates the story of a 300-year-old red pine that stands with some of its fellow, younger pines on a low moraine-formed ridge in south eastern Manitoba. Having grown up near this actual ridge, Pavlick, who was the Curator of Botany at the Royal British Columbia Museum for some two decades, speaks authoritatively and in the voice of the tree as this singular red pine shares both events in its long history as well as aspects of its annual cycle of life. Despite the book’s brevity, readers of Red Pines on the Ridge will come away with a surprising amount of information about the area’s flora and fauna, but information that has been related by Pavlick in a most engaging and non-didactic fashion. Because of the tree’s age, it has been a spectator as the land’s indigenous people were replaced by the arriving Europeans, and it has watched silently as the adjacent low lands were deforested and plowed up for the planting of crops. Despite its longevity, the red pine recognizes that, like all living things, it is not immortal:

internal art

For many years I have struggled and swayed in the forest, and have given life to many new red pines. As the years wound by some of my sibling trees - and children - lost the struggle for space and sunshine; death followed. I escaped being too weakened by insects, fungi or fire. Some of my neighbors were not so fortunate, and have succumbed. I have competed well and have grown taller than all the others – now I fear lightning bolts! I am preparing to leave my space. Old age – senescence – has finally weakened me.

One day soon I shall give myself to a wind – a strong welcome wind – and descend to the forest floor.

     A black and white drawing or full-colour painting by Victoria, BC, nature artist Lissa Calvert can be found on every page of Red Pines on the Ridge. Calvert’s attention to detail mirrors that found in Pavlick’s text.

     Originally published in 1985, Red Pines on the Ridge reappearance almost three decades later is most welcome. As Canada’s population becomes increasingly located in urban, often almost treeless areas, books like Red Pines on the Ridge are essential in reminding us that most of Canada actually consists of large, open tracts of “nature” and that we urban dwellers are essentially ignorant about the plants and animals that live there.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, and would very much like to visit the book’s ridge.

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

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