________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 5 . . . . October 31, 1997

cover A Farley Mowat Reader.

Edited by Wendy Thomas. Illustrated by Richard Row.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, l997.
192pp., cloth, $26.95.
ISBN 1-55013-899-5

Subject Headings:
Mowat, Farley, 1921- -Biography.
Authors, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.
Review by Jennifer Johnson.

*** /4


During his first few weeks with us Mutt astonished us all by his maturity of outlook. He never really was a puppy, at least not after he came to us. Perhaps the ordeal with the ducks had aged him prematurely; perhaps he was simply born adult in mind. In any case he resolutely eschewed the usual antics of puppyhood. He left behind him no mangled slippers, no torn upholstery, and no stains upon the rugs. He did not wage mock warfare with people's bare feet, nor did he make the night hideous when he was left to spend the dark hours alone in the kitchen. There was about him, from the first day he came to us, an aura of resolution and restraint, and dignity. He took life seriously, and he expected us to do likewise.
In A Farley Mowat Reader, editor Wendy Thomas provides an introduction to writings by Mowat, choosing selections from seven of his titles ranging over a forty year publishing career. Choices range from The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (l957) to Aftermath: Travels in a Post-War World (l995). Thomas tells her readers that she missed reading Mowat as a child and wants to start them on their discovery path right away. With this collection, she introduces young readers to the range of Mowat's works and clearly indicates that there is an abundance to choose from should they decide to explore Mowat more fully. Her choices showcase the various texts and are chosen to trace Mowat's life interests as well as his development as a writer. She does not include fiction titles in her selections, preferring to explore the real life adventures and escapades Mowat relates.

      Mowat adds a "Foreword", recognizing that children may not be initially attracted to the compiled format. He welcomes readers to the pleasure of reading, emphasizing his pleasure in the writing and recording of his memories.

      The Reader is beautifully produced. A selection of black and white illustrations by Richard Row complement selections of the text and provide new interpretations, in particular, of the childhood reminiscences.

      This book allows children's librarians to add to their biographical coverage of Mowat without purchasing titles which are generally in adult collections. The coverage is an enhancement to the straight factual biographies in reference sources. One hopes that most children will still have their first introduction to Mowat through the complete version of Owls in the Family. This book, with its illustrations by Robert Frankenberg, is one which really speaks to child readers and endures in popularity. The stand alone format is almost mandatory for this title, as young readers may find the size of the Reader forbidding. Thomas' choices will increase the accessibility of some of Mowat's birding adventures, his experiences with Mutt, and his early naturalist writings. Some of the selections, however, illustrate an adult focus which will not likely attract or sustain the interest of young readers. Examples include some of the extended family history at the beginning and, in particular, the excerpts from My Father's Son. These last explore Mowat's own sense of depression as a beginning writer and the conflicted relationship he had with his father. While these may lead interested readers to the books, it is likely the adventure and animal stories that will make this book relevant.


Jennifer Johnson works as a librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.

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

Copyright © 1997 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