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Friday, January 29, 2010

Life in the Boreal Forest, written by Brenda Guiberson with paintings by Gennady Spirin. Groundwood, 2009. $18.95 ages 6 and up

"The bear needs a thirteen centimeter layer of body fat to survive a long winter sleep. In one frenzied day he gobbles seventy thousand berries. His droppings spread seeds that grow into new bushes."

Showing us the beauty of this unique habitat is a task that both author and illustrator accomplish in this wonderful book that pulsates with the life of the boreal forest. That forest reaches from Alaska and northern Canada to Scandanavia and Russia and boasts a short summer, a wicked winter and the unparalleled beauty of spring and autumn. Readers will lose themselves in the elegance of the finely detailed illustrations, as is evident right from the cover. Who can ignore the fight for survival portrayed there?

Each fascinating panorama(which encompass three-quarters of the double page)invite readers to reach out and touch the creatures who grace the pages. As we examine each of these creatures in their natural habitat, we also feel the power of the forest itself...abundant with nourishment and inviting in the summer and autumn, then stark and often unforgiving as snow falls and winter food becomes scarce, and then revitalized as the days lengthen and the billions of birds return, more than two hundred species.

It is a truly amazing ecosystem and Brenda Guiberson fills it with the many sounds that have a place there. She articulately provides explanations for each double page spread; thus providing the information needed for her readers to understand its complexity and importance. She includes life cycles, habits and how the food chain works to keep the forest viable. She also makes it known to her readers that the forest is becoming smaller, as human settlements push closer.

An author's note makes a plea for awareness of the dangers this natural habitat is facing and suggests what we can do to improve its chances for survival. Much of the area is in danger because of the extraction of oil, deforestation, mining, moss harvesting, and global warming. There are steps we can take to protect it, but we must act now. A list of organizations working to preserve the boreal forest is also included for further learning.

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