CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2000
Every season of the year in the Rocky Mountains holds its enchantments. Each yields a different yet equally compelling chance to observe wildlife in its natural state....Parker, a wildlife artist who lives in Victoria, BC, shares 14 of his paintings of birds and animals which are found in the Rocky Mountains. Each painting is accompanied by Parker's text which provides brief information about the creature which makes its seasonal or permanent home on the mountains or in the valleys below. Some, like the bald eagle, Canada geese, the Great Blue Heron and the loon, fly. Others, such as cougars, foxes, black bears, wolves and the lynx are four footed predators while the mantled ground squirrel, moose, elk and white-tailed deer are prey. Standing alone on the highest crags, largely "safe from all but the most adventurous predators" are the mountain goats.
While the brief text will assist students with school assignments, it is the paintings which demand that the book be purchased. Although colour photos could show equally well what the various animals look like, it is unlikely that they would capture the same sense of "story" that Parker's paintings evoke. A trio of wolves lope through a snow covered forest while a white-tailed deer stands frozen, trusting that its tan-coloured hide will successfully camouflage its presence. A lynx sits patiently staring at its prey, waiting for the absolutely correct moment to pounce. Caught in mid-gulp, a moose raises its dripping head to look at what has disturbed its placid grazing in a swamp. For ten of the animals, their paintings spread across facing pages of this horizontally designed book while the remaining four each have a page to themselves. As the illustrations were paintings before they became part of a children's book, Parker, in deciding upon his paintings' composition, did not have to take into account the realities of a book's centre gutter. However, transforming the paintings into illustrations has created some minor annoyances, such as the loss of an eagle's beak, and one major error. The effect of the dramatic closing illustration of a pair of mountain goats being buffeted by a winter storm is greatly diminished because the head of one of the goats is almost completely lost in the gutter. Oddly, this mistake could have been averted simply by shifting the painting to the right and by moving the accompanying text to the illustration's left side.
Though Rocky Mountain Wildlife's connections to animal study are obvious, the book's paintings also have a place in language arts classes where their dramatic freeze frame qualities could serve as stimuli for creative writing.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
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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 permission.