________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007


In My Backyard.

Margriet Ruurs. Paper sculptures by Ron Broda.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $21.99.
ISBN 978-88776-775-3.

Subject Headings:
Animals-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


Welcome to my backyard!

You will see that this is a busy place – all year round.


We often speak of escaping to the wilderness to get back to nature. Margriet Ruurs and Ron Broda’s new picture book, In My Backyard, serves as a valuable reminder that oftentimes we need escape no further than our own backyards. In brief text and lavishly colourful illustrations, Ruurs and Broda demonstrate the diverse abundance of wildlife that frequents our backyards. From the little singing wrens that indicate the coming of spring, through the wasps who build their paper nests during the height of summer, to the possums foraging through leaf litter in the autumn, and on to the mice leaving tracks in the snow in the winter, our backyards can be a year-round haven for wildlife.

     The text accompanying each illustration is scant but, at book’s end, two pages are dedicated to providing further detail about the birds, animals and insects that appear in the book. Another end page details ways for children to invite wildlife into their backyards, with specific details about attracting birds (generally) and hummingbirds (specifically), as well as butterflies. This additional, end of book material is the most valuable of the text in the book. Because it is so scant, some of the text in the main narrative is a touch bland. Despite this, Ruurs’ new book reflects her admirable desire to help children learn to appreciate the majesty of their natural surrounds. Her love of nature is evident in many of her books for children, and that is also the case here.

     Broda’s detailed paper-sculpture artwork adds enormously to the text. With liberal splashes of colour, Broda’s paper-sculptures create vivid and surprisingly realistic images. It must be a frightfully difficult medium to work in, but Broda’s creative genius is more than equal to the task.

     Adding further to Broda's enticing illustrations, he has playfully hidden a ladybug in each illustration. Most are easily located, but some are so well hidden that it takes a careful search to uncover their whereabouts. This type of supplemental content is always a delightful addition to a picture book and adds to the book’s appeal for readers young and old.

     Overall, this is a good introduction to the creatures that share our backyards.


Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.



To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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