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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Loon, written by Susan Vande Griek and illustrated by Karen Reczuch. Groundwood, 2011. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"So two little loons
plop themselves in.
Close to Mama and Papa
they float,
paddle little feet,
and peer,
never left behind."

Here's the second beautifully designed and illustrated nonfiction book for today. It is the story of two chicks who hatch in June. It takes them no time at all to get into the water and do what loons do. They also like to ride on their parents' backs when they need a bit of rest and comfort.

At hatchlings there are many things to threaten them. Their parents provide the safety needed until they find a peaceful spot where the babies can be lowered into the water. Soon they are paddling in the coves and shallows where they learn to keep each other close with their soft calls. As the days pass, they become more independent and learn from their parents about finding food, oiling their feathers and and finally, flying. When they are old enough to care for themselves, the parents fly off. The young ones are left to get stronger before following small flocks to warmer water where they will spend the winter:

"Through the fog of winter,
the sun of summer,
they ride the waves, sit on the sea.
For three or four years
they live on the ocean
with a loose flock of others,
drifting constantly."

As adults they will make their way north to a distant, deep, fishing lake, find a mate and start a new generation.

This is both a book about birds...the common loon whose plaintive call brings joy and peace to many who live on, or near, the lakes where they raise their young. It is also a book of art...beautifully rendered details in acrylic on canvas, lending depth and texture to the world of the loon. We see that world from the loon's perspective, from a distance, up close, and even into the watery depths. It is a celebration of all that we can see and learn when we take time to wonder about the mysteries of nature.

It is an inspiring lesson. It makes me want to get to one of those lakes and listen late into the night!

The author adds a two page note on the common loon. It includes informational extensions for much of what she has shared in her poetic tale. She gives advice for helping to keep the loon from extinction and follows it up with a list of books for further reading.

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