________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 25. . . .February 28, 2014


Foxes on the Ridge.

Leon E. Pavlick & Ann M. Pavlick. Illustrated by Lissa Calvert.
Victoria, BC: Friesen Press (Distributed by The Ingram Book Company), 2012.
39 pp., pbk. & eBook, $18.99.
ISBN 978-1-77097-852-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77097-853-9 (eBook).

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4



I was born soon after the snows of winter left my ridge. The land was still brown, although prairie crocuses were in bloom. For almost one moon cycle my world was a snug underground den, with warm milk to drink and the warm body of mother fox to snuggle up to. Are these pleasing sensations, happy feelings, to last forever?


The “my ridge” referenced in the excerpt above is the same Manitoba ridge that was the focal point of the Pavlicks’ earlier book, Red Pines on the Ridge. Whereas that book focused principally on the ridge’s flora, this title emphasizes its fauna as it follows a newly born fox through his first year of life. The pup gets an early answer to the excerpt’s closing question as the discovery of the foxes’ den by some humans causes the protective vixen to relocate her five pups to a more secluded den on the ridge. Though “Red foxes and open lands fit well together”, that fit is less perfect when it is men and their machinery that have created these open lands. As spring gives way to summer and the fox matures, he is taught how to hunt, and he discovers that “Mother and father provide us less and less food – and we each provide more and more for ourselves.” When the frosts of autumn arrive, “I was on my own, fending for myself”, and since “[my] home territory could not provide all of us with enough food, so I had to roam and seek.” After much wandering, the fox could say, “Finally I came to an area where there were no scent posts, no other foxes.” There, the fox spends its winter until he is joined by a female. They mate, and, with the onset of spring, she births six pups, and the cycle of life begins anew.

     The illustrations of wildlife artist Lissa Calvert, which appear on virtually every page, are rendered in both black and white and full-colour. Calvert’s art more than reproduces the Pavlicks’ words; it extends them. For example, when the text reads:

One evening when I was very tiny, mother and father fox were both very disturbed. An odour, which I would later come to know as the scent of man, was all around the den. We had been discovered! But the men left.

     Calvert’s illustration reveals the den at the point it was discovered by two human males who are accompanied by a pair of dogs, one of which is sniffing at the den’s entrance. Ominously, one of the humans is carrying a long gun, either a rifle or a shotgun.

     Another example of an illustration conveying more information than is found in the text also involves humans. The maturing fox observes, “One evening one of my brothers killed a white chicken in a farmer’s yard. Shortly after that I learned about man’s traps, man’s snares and man’s guns.” Calvert’s illustration accompanying that text shows the young fox, his tail drooping, looking at the carcass of one of his siblings.

     Without being didactic, the Pavlicks' text presents a great deal of factual information not only about foxes, but also about the foxes’ prey and the predators they must avoid. The writing style is quite poetic and visual, as can be seen in the following passage.

On some summer nights the moon brightens up my world. When the summer breezes come up the red pines and trembling aspens sing to me. Late evening snipes sometimes winnow above the marsh. There, little brown bats chase and catch flying insects. Beyond the marsh the beaver pond glistens in the moonlight. I often drink where the water trickles over the beaver dam.

     A most worthy addition to libraries’ nature shelves.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, and has been fortunate enough to observe foxes in their natural environment.

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

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