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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Voices From the Wild, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $24.95 ages 6 and up

"We are drifters in the night.
You have trembled at our moon call.
In a pack we roam the woods,
And we know that you are present,
Yes, we know you by your scent.

If you're looking for the proof,
Our sense of smell is legendary.
There are those who could convince you
Who aren't hear to tell the tale."

I am thrilled to see a re-issue of this marvellous book, aptly subtitled An Animal Sensagoria. I still have my original, well-loved and somewhat tattered copy. While I was teaching, I shared it often in classrooms and in a library setting. Children were blown away by the discoveries they made about animals they clearly recognized, and were often astounded by the true nature of their powerful senses.

I first heard it read when David came to our school to share his love and excitement for reading. It was great fun to listen, and to guess along with those eager listeners the animal he was describing in his poems. David held their attention time after time. He also worked hard to keep them from shouting out their guesses until he had finished reading the poem. The excitement to share ideas would build, and he would ask them what they thought. Every child was immersed in the experience as they paid close attention to the words of each of the poems.

This new smaller format will be much appreciated, as it is easier to hold for reading to a group, and easier for young hands to carry home. Ron Parker's impressive wildlife paintings of  twenty-five international animals won a new fan for him the first time I saw them. They are quite extraordinary, allowing readers a chance to see each of the animals in their natural environment, and close-up. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses. The animals vie for the artist's attention by touting their own brilliance in their quest to be included here. Their voices are compelling and telling.

A question about humans is asked at the end of each section, concerning that particular sense:

"What about us? What's the reason
That we've not been featured here?

What's happened to our sense of touch,
That doesn't seem to serve too much,
Unless we're seeking comfort
In a world that's filled with things?

What about us as you see it?
What happened to our touch?"

An appendix includes thumbnail sketches and additional useful information to help readers learn more about these animals, and page numbers offer a quick trip back to reread their plea for acknowledgement as the most unique in this verbal battle of senses.

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