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Alexandra Morton
Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1993.
64pp, laminated boards, $16.95,
ISBN 1-55143-000-2. CIP

Subject Headings:
Killer whale-British Columbia-Pacific Coast-Juvenile literature.
Whales-British Columbia-Pacific Coast-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11

Reviewed by Peter Croskery

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Alexandra Morton's  In the Company of Whales combines anecdotal experiences with factual information to explain the basic biology of west coast killer whales. Scattered throughout the book are colour photographs that complement the written text.

Writing for a young audience, Morton does not get lost in a lot of factual and/or scientific detail. And her constant references to her young son Jarret help reinforce the contact she makes with her reading audience.

The author has presented her text in a conversational diary style. Each entry recounts her experience, her wonder and her conclusions. Using this format, Morton is able to project the frustrations and joy of doing field work as a biologist. The reader also feels the strength of the author's commitment to her subject.

Although the details of killer whale biology are interesting and would be the element of the book most young readers would easily see, there is another story within the text. It is the close relationship that develops between researcher and subject. For Morton, whales are her life. They dominate her day, her home and her thoughts.

Scattered throughout the text is boxed factual information. Clearly distinguishable from the author's diary accounts, these boxes provide details which would not naturally fit into diary notes. Whereas the diary text is very anecdotal in style, the boxes are written in a more precise and factual style.

Using the diary format allows, the author to maintain a "story-like" tone, and the fact boxes ensure whale biology is accurately conveyed. (It's almost like getting two books in one.)

Nicely packaged and presented, this book would be suitable for Junior readers. It is recommended as an addition to school libraries.

Peter Croskery is a biologist, freelance writer and instructor specializing in environmental issues in Grimsby, Ontario

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