CM . . . .
Volume V Number 17 . . . . April 23, 1999
Then, around eleven o'clock, Dad got another call.Late one evening, a young child's father, a conservation officer, is called to investigate a cougar sighting in a populated area of Victoria, B.C. With the help of a cougar hunter and two hounds, he searches behind cedar hedges, along the waterfront and in Beacon Hill Park, but there is no trace of the animal. The next evening, a taxi driver notices something slinking into the Empress Hotel's parkade and reports it to the authorities. An anxious crowd, the child and his mother among them, gathers while the police and the conservation officer enter the parkade. Finally, a shot is heard, and Dad emerges from the parkade with the tranquilized cougar slung over his shoulders. He allows the people to touch the animal, to stroke its silky fur or to pat its head, offering them the opportunity of a lifetime-- a close-up look at a magnificent animal that has the reputation of being secretive and elusive. The following morning, father and child drive to a remote area far from the city and set the cougar free.
Like many of Lawson's books, this one is based on fact. On March 3,1992, a cougar was seen near Victoria's Empress Hotel, but it vanished without a trace, and the extensive four-hour search was called off. Written in the first person from the child's point of view, the story is told with a blend of mystery and suspense as well as with an obvious respect for wild animals. Lawson's use of short sentences adds to the sense of mystery and anticipation and makes the telling more childlike, and, therefore, realistic.
Text is large and simple, appearing within a soft lemon yellow circle (perhaps symbolizing the beam from the conservation officer's flashlight) on the left-hand page whenever there is a full-page illustration on the right. Double-page spreads have the text printed beneath the illustrations. The author also includes two pages of notes about cougar sightings, captures and cougars in the wild.
Lefebvre's watercolour illustrations, rendered in a "wet on wet" technique which allows the colours to flow and blend together, are absolutely superb. As the dark blues, mauves, browns and greens bleed into one another, the result is murky, shadowy and mysterious. Touches of orange and gold add an eerie light. Hidden within the details of some of the illustrations is the outline of the cougar's head or body. Lefebvre's clever way of employing primary and secondary focal points will have readers' eyes moving all across the pages in order to find the cougar lurking about.
Combined with the stunning illustrations, the story, although simple, has the ability to capture the imagination.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.