CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000
Beaver foodBeavers is a superb example of a well-written information book for pre-readers which will also appeal to students in the early elementary grades. Despite its picture book length, Beavers contains features normally associated with longer works of nonfiction: a well crafted table of contents, a useful glossary and a serviceable index. The book's contents are organized into 13 pairs of facing pages which each deal with a single topic relating to beavers. These pages move from general information about beavers, such as their being rodents and their worldwide distribution (supported by a map), to more specific topics such as beaver food, bodies, lodges and dams. Adding greatly to the book's information value are Pat Stephens' colour illustrations which concretize the text's facts. Particularly effective are her cross sections of a beaver dam and lodge and her four panels which show how a dam is constructed. The book is well designed with most spreads containing a major text section, a principal illustration and further smaller secondary illustrations which are supported by briefer text. Eight of the paired pages also contain a "Beaver Fact" box which drops in tidbits of information, such as the fact that "millions of years ago...some [beavers] were as large as bears" or that "a beaver can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes." Closing pages show how, in nature, beavers' dams ultimately contribute to the creation of lush meadows, but Hodge also candidly acknowledges that the beavers' work in urban or farm areas can create problems of flooding for humans. A concluding page, "Beaver signs," provides five visual means by which readers can recognize the presence of beavers in the readers' locale. A portion of this page includes Stephens' life-sized illustrations of a beaver's front and back paw prints.
A most useful addition to school libraries, Beavers should also be read to the two-legged Beavers in the "Beaver" section of Scouts Canada.
Dave Jenkinson, who teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, also lives near the LaSalle River which is home to many four-legged beavers.
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