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Shirley E. Woods
Illustrated by Bruce John Wood
Halifax, Nimbus Publishing, 1991. 73pp, paper, $8.95
ISBN 0-921054-98-X. CIP

Grades 1 to 4/Ages 6 to 10

Reviewed by Fred Leicester

Volume 20 Number 3
1992 May

Pip was born in an old army boot on an abandoned farm in Saskatchewan. Orphaned shortly after birth, he hides in the box car of a freight train in order to escape from a cat, and eventually ends up in a field on the Atlantic coast. In his new environment Pip encounters a variety of animals, both friendly and hostile, including his future mate, Meg.

Given the task of writing a book that is entertaining and also makes the real world of wildlife accessible to children, the author, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic outdoors-person, has succeeded in giving his young readers a not unrealistic account of what the life of a small mammal may be like. Yes, the mice talk, and other animals exhibit a full range of human emotions (and it is here I admit to my only reservation about the book), but the incidents are realistic and the underlying science is sound.

The hectic (and in real life, short-lived) life of Pip is nicely conveyed through the fast pacing of the book. Virtually each page has Pip narrowly escaping from the claws or fangs of some predator. Apart from being realistic, this will have the added advantage of keeping a young reader's interest.

The reservations mentioned earlier concerns the attribution of human emotion to animals. While this may be acceptable in other works of animal fiction where fantasy is all (Winnie the Pooh, for example), in the story under review the author uses the real world of animals as the framework for the story. And because of this I feel uneasy with lines such as, "Clark [the shrew] confidently approached his victim. He gloated over the helpless vole... before sinking his teeth into the vole's neck. With horrible crunching noises, Clark ate the vole. Pip witnessed the entire incident and felt ill." To be sure, good guys and bad guys are the meat and potatoes of fiction (and Clark sure ain't no good guy), but there are already too many adults subscribing to the notion that certain animals are good and others bad without having children's nature stories adding to this myth.

Nevertheless, I liked this book; the author does not talk down to his audience, he conveys a lot of natural history about deer mice, and he maintains a credible story-line. The line drawings, many full-page, nicely complement the text.

Recommended with reservations.

Fred Leicester, Golden School District, Golden, B.C.

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1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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