________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 26. . . .March 7, 2014


Aspens on the Ridge.

Leon E. Pavlick & Ann M. Pavlick. Illustrated by Lissa Calvert.
Victoria, BC: Friesen Press (Distributed by The Ingram Book Company), 2013.
38 pp., pbk. & eBook, $18.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4602-2429-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4602-2430-4 (eBook).

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4



Our green white trunks rise from the sand, our canopy is welcoming to look at, but are not trees just trees? Yet all things have their beauty. A rose may be passed by but not an aspen tree. Our fluttering leaves demand attention.

Many plants face the world in relative silence except when the stronger winds blow. But the aspen’s leaves engage the gentlest breezes – and tremble. From a distance their combined voices seem to hiss and may bring to mind the sound of a viper or asp.


Aspens on the Ridge completes the “Ridge” trilogy that began with Red Pines on the Ridge and was followed by Foxes on the Ridge. Both of the previous titles mentioned the aspen trees or grove which also grew on a ridge that is located in southeastern Manitoba, and now the Pavlicks focus on this deciduous tree, aka the white poplar, which is the most widely distributed tree in North America. As occurred in Red Pines on the Ridge, this title includes an historical component in which the grove looks at how the land has changed, especially with the coming of the Europeans who decimated the buffalo herds and whose voracious demand for land for agriculture saw the forests’ trees being cleared. The aspen can recall:

One day, a farmer’s bulldozer punched into the aspen grove, uprooting, breaking, crushing...land for the taking to grow oats, wheat and barley.


As the bulldozer went in, out ran the white-tailed stag. Out ran the family of red foxes. Out flew the yellow winged flicker and bluebird. Steel tracks rolled over the brown thrasher’s nest, that bird’s bubbly, mimicking music no longer to be heard. The bumblebees’ nest, crushed, as was that of the hornet.

Where there were trees and animals, now there is wheat. But how much richer was the life of the aspen grove?

     However, in a sense, the aspen grove had the last laugh as aspens principally reproduce by suckering, not by seeds. Consequently, the aspen trees that remained standing around the now plowed lands sent out root suckers into the fields, and “Aspen saplings arose, each year more and more and further out....Aspen saplings, connected to established aspens, always had a good supply of food to nourish them, so a field cut into the forest slipped back to forest. Trembling aspen trees led the way, growing tall, straight.”

internal art      Like Red Pines on the Ridge, Aspens on the Ridge reveals the connections found amongst the flora and fauna that populate the ridge. And, as was the case with the earlier two books, the black and white and full-colour illustrations of wildlife artist Lissa Calvert appear on most pages of Aspens on the Ridge.

      The book’s content closes with an evocative poem, “Song of the Aspens”, which was authored by the late Leon Pavlick.

      Though the book’s cover shows a trio of pronghorn antelope standing amongst the aspen grove’s golden fall colours, a closing note informs readers that these animals “no longer exist in the wild in Manitoba; the last record of the species was made at Whitemouth Lake in 1881.”

      Collectively, the volumes in the “Ridge” trilogy are worthy additions to school and public libraries’ natural world collections.


Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he has had to deal with the suckering habits of his sole aspen that so wanted to become a grove.

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

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