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Alder Music.

In the title essay, the author tells how he led a group of fifth graders to an alder thicket. He intended to tell them about the "Great Truths of Ecology," but before he got to the lesson, he taught them how to make whistles from the easily hollowed stems. His Great Truths "didn't stand a chance. The kids were making alder music. Pan would have smiled." Saunders knows when to let nature sound its own praises.

The stories in this book are full of real people, not cardboard villains and dogooders. Even though Saunders wrote these essays to take his mind off the flood of bad news about environmental problems, this isn't prissy prose of people for whom nature is all sweetness and truth.

It's a shame to say anything critical about such beautifully written essays, but as knowledgeable as the author is about northeastern Canada, his passion for waking people up sometimes runs off with the facts. In an eloquent little piece about raising an orphaned sparrow hawk, he implies the bird's numbers are declining. Probably the opposite is happening because of the increase of fields and edge area, and electric wire perches have vastly expanded its habitat.

The last essay begins, "Thirty--no, forty--years ago, in the long sweet days of childhood, when the sky was never so blue and the snow never so white and every day was a week long, I had a friend." If this book gets the readers it deserves, Saunders will make a lot of new friends, and they will wish, as I do, that this book were a year long.
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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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