________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013


Be a Wilderness Detective: Solving the Mysteries of Fields, Woods, and Coastlines.

Peggy Kochanoff.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2013.
52 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-77108-012-5.

Subject Heading:
Natural history-Canada, Eastern-Miscellanea.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Linda Ludke.

***½ /4



Hmmm … How can fireflies give off light and not become hot like an electric light bulb? Let’s look closely and find out.

A firefly, which is really a kind of beetle, is more than 92 percent efficient in converting energy into light. An ordinary incandescent light bulb is only 10 percent efficient, which means 90 percent of the energy is given off as heat. Fireflies produce what is called “cold light”. An organic substance called luciferin and an enzyme called luciferase react together with oxygen to produce cold light in fireflies as well as some other insects, sea creatures, and worms. Cold light can be yellow, light green, or pale red. Most fireflies produce yellow-green light but some species can produce the other colours too.”


Young naturalists will find plenty of information about Canadian fields, woods and coastlines in this engaging nonfiction book. Topics covered include scat, galls, tortoise bugs, animal hibernation, tree rings, lichens, maple sap, fireflies, tides and sandpipers. Each chapter answers a question that is posed in child-friendly language: “Do you know what those weird growths on some plants are?” The clearly written explanations that follow also have a conversational tone.

     Children are encouraged to explore and engage with their surroundings. As Peggy Kochanoff says in her introduction, “You can try to solve some of the mysteries in nature, often found as close as your own doorstep. All you need is curiosity and patience. LOOK, LISTEN, SMELL and TOUCH”. The approachable writing style captures readers’ interest, as in this description of a tortoise bug: “They have a hook that they hold over their back that collects bits of poop and skin they’ve shed. They wave this big, brown glob that forms at predators to scare them off. Try touching the glob gently with your fingers and watch it wave”.

     internal art Kochanoff’s realistic watercolour illustrations look like sketches that have been taped into a nature journal. The pictures and diagrams are labelled and help to explain the concepts discussed. Highlighted words in the text are also defined in a glossary at the end of the book.

      Be a Wilderness Detective is a great resource for school assignments as well as being an entertaining nature guidebook for children.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

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

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