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Volume VIII Number 10 . . . . January 18, 2002
Who is the stranger in the woods? Where did he come from? What surprises did he bring with him? Wildlife photographers Carl Sams and his wife, Jean Stoick, have created a photographic fantasy! With their cameras set up in a clearing in the woods, Sams and Stoick captured the reactions of several woodland creatures to a snowman who "magically" appeared after a winter storm. The snowman is complete with hat, stick arms, gloves, a carrot nose, and nut eyes and mouth. The photographs of the deer, blue-jays, owls, mourning doves, a beaver, a squirrel, a porcupine, a rabbit, chickadees, a field mouse, and cardinals are absolutely stunning. Initially the animals are tentative about the stranger in the woods, and no one wants to investigate. However, as soon as the smallest woodland creature, the field mouse, volunteers to go and look at the stranger, all the other animals and birds articulate reasons why each should be the first to check out the stranger. The woodland creatures discover nuts and seeds on the stranger's hat, corn buried beneath the snow around the stranger, and the stranger's yummy carrot nose. Once the animals and birds have explored the stranger and depart, two young children, who have been observing the creatures from behind some evergreens, cautiously venture out and replenish the snowman's stock of seeds and replace his carrot nose. The children vow to feed the animals "for a long, long time."
The lyrical text complements the woodland creatures in the captivating and charming winter setting. The repetition of words by some of the animals is humourous. The porcupine states that he is "much too busy chew-chew-chewing on my antler." The story communicates several "messages," some ecological (i.e. the interdependency of humans and nature) and some about the human condition (i.e. the importance of sharing with and caring for others, regardless of how many feet they walk on).
Information is provided about the stranger's identity as Sams and Stoick have included a photograph of the snowman and the deer on each end page. The book is a visual and auditory delight! The high quality paper used in the book is wonderful as it contributes to the realism of the photographs.
Stranger in the Woods won the prestigious Ben Franklin Award as best children's book of 2000, and the 2001 International Reading Association "Children's Book Award for Young Readers."
Sylvia Pantaleo is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in children's literature and all areas of the language arts.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.