A Mountain of a Problem
A Mountain of a Problem
"Wolves, did you get woken up this morning by anything in particular?"
" No, but we have been seeing a lot more prey to hunt. More animals in the daylight."
"Mountain goat, you're up high, did you see anything this morning?"
"Nope. Excuse me, I haven't had time to shed my winter coat yet, and I'm sweltering."
"A lot of these animals are bothered by the sun!"
Featuring a satisfying blend of mystery and science, “Shelby & Watts” is a new graphic novel series young readers will enjoy investigating. Shelby, an amateur detective fox, and Watts, her encyclopedia-loving, badger friend, solve environmental whodunits with aplomb. These charming “Planetary Investigators” offer their ecologically sound services to animals in need.
In the second book in the series, A Mountain of a Problem, Shelby and Watts receive a letter from a wide-awake black bear named Violet. Instead of hibernating, something has caused Violet to wake up early: “Usually, I can sleep for five months … six months … sometimes even seven months! But this year, I only slept for four months. If little Theodore wakes up, there might not be enough food ready for him.” The detectives put on their hiking gear and head to the bear’s cave in the forest to investigate.
As in their first mystery, Tide Pool Troubles, the pair ponder questions, formulate hypotheses and make observations. In addition to meeting Violet (whose current mood is “tried, very tired” and favourite snack is berries), Shelby and Watts gain insight from busy bees (whose job is listed as “Pollinating & Bee Stuff, and favourite snack is flower pollen) and from many animals, including a moose and mountain goat who complain about unseasonably warm temperatures. After being caught in a mudslide caused by fast melting snow, the science sleuths have their “Eureka” moment. The “Case of the Not-So-Sleepy-Bears” is succinctly recapped, and the effects of global climate change are explained in a child-friendly manner. Eco-conscious tips at the end of this installment include: plant a tree; use cars and other energy sources less; and write letters to community leaders about creating new laws to protect our planet.
Ashlyn Anstee’s colourful, animated cartoon illustrations have cinematic flair. Comic panels effectively propel the narrative forward, and there are many details to pore over. The well-developed characters have quirky personalities that shine through. Perfect for emerging readers, the storyline of A Mountain of a Problem is organized into seven short chapters featuring large type, lots of repetition and visual clues.
It’s no mystery; “Shelby & Watts” is a terrific graphic novel series that boosts and builds confident beginning readers and budding environmentalists.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.