Alison's Fishing Birds.
Alison's Fishing Birds
written by Roderick Haig-Brown
illustrations by Sheryl McDougald and Jim Rimmer
Caitlin Press, 2017
978-1-987915-19-8 (hc) $21.95
for Grades 2 to 4
Fiction / Non-fiction / Birds / Wildlife / Environmentalism
Alison liked to watch birds visiting the river beside her house and would sometimes tell her dolls about them. She wasn't a "naturalist or a bird watcher or anything dull like that," but was quiet and observant. Sometimes she talked to the birds and would ask the dipper and kingfisher questions about their lives. She witnessed the obstacles an osprey faced in catching his prey, marvelled at eggs laid by the merganser and was mesmerized by the speed with which a heron caught and swallowed a fish.
This manuscript, originally written around 1940, by environmentalist and award-winning writer, Roderick Haig-Brown, was discovered by his daughter after his death and published subsequently as a limited edition. The five stories are quiet and graceful, written in Haig-Brown's inimitable style. Despite an apparent simplicity, the complex intricacies of nature are deftly portrayed with authenticity and charm. The gentle text invites re-reading, as the lessons provided on the natural world and its need for conservation are pondered.
Each chapter is introduced by delicate lino-cuts from the earlier edition. Stunning drawings and paintings reveal aspects of the wildlife mentioned in the text and provide a beautiful extra facet. Combined with the pleasing dimensions and layout, the illustrations add to the physical attractiveness of the title.
With a preface by Valerie Haig-Brown that provides context, and an inspiring foreword by the environmentalist Andrew Nikiforuk, this singular book has several layers of appeal as literary history, environmental delight, charming story for children and as an artistic pleasure.