CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003
Wild Babies follows two earlier collaborations by this talented team, A Mountain Alphabet (CM: 3 (14), March 14, 1997) and When We Go Camping (CM: 8 (1), Sept. 7, 2001). Each double page spread in this beautiful book includes a black and white drawing of a wild creature and on the opposing page a richly coloured meticulously detailed painting depicting the wild babies in their habitat. A single line of poetic text accompanies each of the twelve sets of illustrations. For each wild family, the author selects a different verb to describe its movements: raccoons steal, a moose calf explores, goslings snuggle, skunks snuffle, mountain goats clamber, foxes dash, a loon chick sails and cougar cubs tumble and pounce.
Young children will be delighted with the opportunity to discover secrets hiding in each painting. They must look very closely to find hidden animals or clues to the animal which is featured on the next page. Those children who are beginning to be literate will enjoy hunting for words the artist has cleverly camouflaged in the foliage surrounding the wild creatures. A good light and a child's skills of observation are necessary but may not be sufficient to succeed at this challenge. Fortunately for adults sharing this book with little ones, the author has included a legend at the end of the book, specifying exactly what to look for and where each item is hidden.
The legend consists of clearly and simply written nuggets of information presented in one paragraph for each of the twelve creatures. As well as asking the reader to find the hidden word or animal, each excerpt delivers some tidbits of information guaranteed to interest young listeners. Readers discover, for example, that when a moose is first born, its mother keeps it hidden in shrubs or on an island, and that within days it can out swim a person! Under "Loon," the author informs her readers that "Loons are like little submarines. They can float, slowly sink, or quickly dive. Underwater loons can swim like a fish!" Another informative and unusual feature of Wild Babies is the list the author has made of collective nouns used to describe groups of the animals about which she has written. Adults may be just as surprised as children to learn that a group of bears is a "sleuth," a group of cougar cubs a "clutter" and (best of all) a group of skunks is a "surfeit"!
Animal babies are enduringly fascinating to humans at almost every age. Although Wild Babies is a perfect book for pre-school and primary children, the power of its simple prose and lush paintings will ensure its appreciation by older children. Libraries serving elementary aged children will want to add this handsome and informative book to their collection.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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