CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 11. . . .November 13, 2015
Under Your Nose: A Book About Nature’s Gifts.
Judith and Shandley McMurray. Illustrated by Robert Bateman and the Tobin Islands Artists: D. A. Dunford, Karen Genovese, Susan Gosevitz, Loretta Rogers, Darcey Sills & Junior Members Simon Dunford & Megan Torisawa. Guest Artists: Dwight Aranha, Brad Bateman & Andy Donato.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
In writing the foreword to this book, Robert Bateman makes the point that today’s children are not enjoying themselves enough “playing out in nature”, but instead they are spending much of their time indoors with technology. The story is a message-driven plea for adults to change that.
Today we’re driving to Nana and Gramps’ cottage for seven days. We’ll be without my parents, and even worse, without television! Sitting in the back seat I turn on my tablet while
my sister, Chloe, puts on her pink earphones and turns her music up so loud the cars next to us can probably hear.
After a long drive Gramps points to a sparkling waterfall and says, ‘Turn off those gadgets. We’re close.”
Chloe and the unnamed narrator find vacation time here an unfamiliar experience without iPods
and iPads. The electricity even goes out on the first night! Gramps introduces the two children to the wonders of the forest surrounding the little house by means of scavenger hunts and nature walks. Their own project is the building of a dam on the stream, in imitation of the local beavers.
Our little dam is full of life. A bullfrog lets out a deep croak before jumping off one of the branches. A dragonfly swoops down to the water. His body looks like an airplane, but his feet hang below like a basket, ready to catch mosquitoes.
We take a break to draw it – the last item on our list.
A wondrous time is spent looking at the night sky and listening for sounds in the dark. A campfire with the makings for s’mores provided by Nana tops off the evening. There is a lot packed into what appears to be only the first day of the holiday.
The story is told in the present and explains, with scientific precision, the things the children are discovering. Meticulously-detailed watercolours capture the mood of the Northern Ontario woodland setting, from a deer in a clearing to a still-life of some of the children’s collected treasures to a cheery red-eyed vireo in close-up.
The linking illustrations of the children and their grandparents in this sylvan setting have been done by several different artists, which is a bit jarring. Also, there is one too many mentions of the forgotten tablets. Since the children seem to be happy spending time technology-free, Nana doesn’t need to rub it in by saying as she tucks the two in, "Who would have guessed you wouldn’t miss your tablets?"
Under Your Nose is published by Firefly but also carries the label Children’s Books for Charity, which donates proceeds from sales to the Bateman Foundation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Illustrations have been provided by the Tobin Island Artists, a collective based in Ontario’s Muskoka country.
Part storybook, part nature lesson, Under Your Nose is recommended for primary collections, particularly for its illustrative content.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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