The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (9781585369942, Amazon)
When people start to move into McCall, Idaho in the 1940’s, they encroach on the beavers who were already living there. Soon the new human homes and roads are flooded as the beavers build their dams. In this sort of struggle, it is always the humans who win. But a unique conservation effort is undertaken by the Idaho Fish and Game Department to move the beavers to a safer and more sheltered habitat. The problem is how to get the beavers into the pristine wilderness where there are no airports and no roads. Perhaps the solution can come from World War II parachutes and one brave beaver named Geronimo.
Wood takes care with the amount of prose she has on each page, offering just the right amount of detail and action for young readers. Her prose is also playful, as she describes both the beauty of Idaho and the damage that the beavers can do. The tone serves the book well with the whimsical use of parachutes and boxes that can open when they hit the ground. The story is a fascinating one and the book makes sure to explain that this sort of solution would not be done today where it is expected that humans and nature find a way to co-exist.
The illustrations are a mix of workshop images and desks where plans are made and then the Idaho landscape and horizons. The images settle the book deeply into the wilderness and the setting in which the book takes place. There is a sense of isolation and beauty in the images where the beavers land in their new habitat.
Fascinating and fun, this nonfiction picture book tells the story of a unique solution to a wildlife issue. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Sleeping Bear Press.
A House in the Woods by Inga Moore
One pig had built a den for herself in the woods with another pig next door in a hut. The two pigs went exploring in the woods and when they returned home, they found a bear and a moose in their homes. Unfortunately, the spaces were not made for such large animals and both the den and the hut collapsed! So the four animals talk about what they could do and decide to build a home where they all could live. They had no idea where to start, so they called in the Beavers who only asked to be paid in peanut-butter sandwiches. Everyone worked together to build a marvelous house and then worked together to get the sandwiches made for the Beavers. In the end, they had a cozy warm home just right for the four friends together.
This book is so warm and cozy with an old-fashioned feel. The story embraces a spirit of friendship and cooperation without ever being didactic about it. Instead the lessons are woven directly into the story and shown, never told. The tone of the tale is gentle and cheerful with small touches throughout that bring the story to life. Here is the paragraph when the four friends are finally asleep in their own home:
Soon the only sounds to be heard were the soft cheeps of sleepy birds roosting in the rafters, the tiny rustling of wood mice in the fallen leaves outside, and, just now and then, the gentle snoring of Bear.
Moore’s art has the same warm, old-fashioned feel as the story. The animals are individuals with interesting personalities, who each contribute differently to the project. Through the entire work is a feel of nature and home.
This charming book is a joy to read aloud and will delight listeners. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
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