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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Great Bear Sea: Exploring The Marine Life of a Pacific Paradise, written by Ian McAllister and NIcholas Read, with photographs by Ian McAllister. Orca Book Publishers, 2013. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"The Great Bear Rainforest and Sea abound with remarkable creatures, but if you were asked to name the most remarkable creature of all, what would it be? The spirit bear? The grizzly? The wolf? It may surprise you to know that most people who live in the rainforest would choose the salmon. That's right, the fish."

I knew little about the Great Bear Rainforest until my daughter moved to Victoria, and I wanted to be more familiar with her new home in British Columbia. In the reading that I have done since then, I have been greatly impressed with two earlier books by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read ... The Salmon Bears (2010) and The Sea Wolves (2013). They were such enjoyable and informative reads; I often recommended them to middle graders and their teachers. Now, the team has penned an equally memorable book about the creatures that inhabit the waters close by.

"But rich as the forests of the Great Bear are in bird and animal life, its marine environments are even richer. The waters off the forest's rugged coast contain more creatures than the forest itself - creatures that form the basis of food webs that extend all the way up to the great whales, great bears and the even the great trees."

We know little about the sea. The authors assure that were it not there, the Great Bear Rainforest would not exist. In nine chapters they guide readers from the smallest (plankton) to the largest (whales) inhabitants, allowing a clear look at the impact that the Great Bear Sea has on all life in the rainforest. It is a most interesting and accessible journey of discovery. Concluding with the need to protect these waters from oil tanker traffic which is ever-increasing, they leave us with a sense of urgency to do something.

"But people opposed to the pipeline are making themselves heard. Despite the vocal support of the Government of Canada, it's no longer certain that the pipeline will be built. Too many people have stood up and said, "No." ... Working together to make the right decisions and take the right actions will make all the difference. As long as we do that, there's no reason why the Great Bear Sea won't remain wild and wet and teeming with life for years to come. It all depends on us."
As in the two previous books, the setting is so beautifully presented and described. Because it feels like a conversation, readers will be totally engaged in all that the authors have to share; and share they do. Informative sidebars, dubbed Maritime Morsels, well-written captions for gorgeous, telling photographs kept me reading chapter after chapter ... and learning. I like the comparisons they make when creating perspective for their young audience. Even the science made sense to the non-scientist in me!  

The diversity in sea life is astounding. How the various creatures manage to live and thrive in their surroundings makes for very compelling reading, and is always informative.

"Even so, when it comes to the Great Bear Sea, cute doesn't come any cuter than sea otters. With their round heads, marble eyes, large noses and long absentminded-professor whiskers, they're as cute as cute gets in the marine world. A video of two of them holding each other's paws in the Vancouver Aquarium has attracted more than eighteen million hits on YouTube. Now that's cute."

We know that our kids need to spend more time outside, learning to love nature and its many pleasures. It keeps them healthier and more connected to the importance of the greater world itself. It establishes a concern for the natural world, and its inhabitants. If we are going to change what is happening, we need to be informed and sympathetic to some of the concerns expressed so eloquently in this wonderful series of books. They show us that there is hope; it's up to everyone to help preserve our future.

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