________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 3 . . . . September 18, 2015


West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet.

Deborah Hodge. Illustrated by Karen Reczuch.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2015.
48 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.), $16.95 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-55498-440-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-441-1 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Region (B.C.)-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4



There is a wild and beautiful place where an ancient rainforest meets the ocean, where whales swim and eagles soar. Waves splash up on a windswept beach, and sea and sky go on forever. Would you like to visit this special place? Come and explore the Pacific west coast! Discover some treasures of land and sea by turning the pages of this ABC.

Q is for quillback rockfish that swim near rocky reefs and live up to a hundred years. These fish have sharp quills for stinging seals and other enemies.

V is for Velella velella, or by-the-wind sailors, that drift in the waves. Like little blue sailboats, they float on the water and catch the wind with their sails.

X is for Xiphister, a prickleback fish that swishes through tide pools and hides under rocks. This fish breaths air.

This alphabet book is a successful meeting of the minds of two award-winners: a writer with first-hand knowledge of, and obvious passion for, the subject, and an illustrator with a keen eye for detail that brings nature to life. From its cover panorama of eagle and bear set against pounding surf, rocks and tall evergreens, past end papers littered with beach treasures like kelp, paw prints and sea anemones, and through 26 brief, simply written, informative selections, the reader is immersed in the title setting. Alphabet books abound —even alphabet books about the west coast—but the focus here is fresh for its down-to-earth approach and effortless style.

internal art      Writer Deborah Hodge has included some of the expected land animals (bears, cougars, black-tailed deer, coastal wolves), sea creatures (crabs, whales, sea stars, jellies, limpets, sea urchins, fish) and birds (eagles, marbled murrelets, sandpipers) along with huckleberries, the Pacific, rain, "...yellow, the color of the sun....", and the intertidal zone. To complete the alphabet, she's slipped in a few more unusual choices: quillback rockfish, velella velella and xiphister. What a fine opportunity for many of us to learn something new! A rich sensory experience emerges from details that help the reader feel the drenching rain that feeds giant trees, hear the clatter of beach rocks as the bear flips them to find his meal, see how Nature camouflages a fawn, taste huckleberries, and smell the salty treasures left by the tide.

      The visual partner in this creation, Karen Reczuch, evokes the essence of realism through the use of depth and color in her detailed watercolor and color pencil illustrations. The rainforest wears softly muted greens, shadowy with thick trees and ferns. The coastal scenes show weathered rock and driftwood on sandy beaches that seem mysterious in sea mist and fog. Undersea, shades of blue are the backdrop for the colors and patterns of plants and fish. Reczuch marries the illustrations cleverly with Hodge's text: for example, in one painting that splits the page horizontally between ocean surface and floor, readers see U is for urchins, their spiky bodies on the underwater rocks attracting a hungry sea otter. The top right half of this page, V is for Velella velella, shows these relatives of jellies drifting at the whim of the wind while a reclining sea otter munches his urchin.

      A couple of pages at the back offer more information about the nature of the Pacific west coast environment and why it deserves to be preserved. This detail is supplemented by a few websites and books for further investigation.

      West Coast Wild, a delightful glimpse into this amazing geographic location, belongs in the collection of anyone eager for a taste of the wild west coast of North America.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - September 18, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive