This spirited memoir of a Canadian childhood by the great nature writer (Never Cry Wolf—not reviewed) is a prequel to My Father's Son and gives the boy's version of the years given a dog's-eye view in The Dog Who Wouldn't Be. Mowat comes from a long line of male misfits. His grandfather was a poet and general failure at whatever he tried, and his father, Angus, was much the same, although he eventually made a living as a novelist-librarian. To most readers, Mowat's childhood will seem a dream, though it's presented with grit and texture. Angus was for a time a beekeeper, and the family lived on oatmeal, soda crackers, and honey until a pestilence killed the bees by the tens of thousands. Angus' trials as a sailor took a toll on his long-suffering wife, Helen, as, year after year, she and Farley (called Bunje) faced storms at sea and holds awash. Bunje acquired an early love for snowshoeing in the woods, iceboating, and fishing. In these pages he fixates on animals, insects, frogs, crayfish, and creepy-crawlies of all shapes and sizes, whom he calls the ``Others,'' and often bathes in the tub with Hercules, his turtle the size of a small dinner plate. He sinks into a great manure pile and loses his pants and shoes. He and pal Geordie snatch funny rubber things from the sewage disposal pipes, fill them with water, and bomb people from his parents' bedroom window. As he turns nine, his idyllic 1920s darken into the '30s as the Depression deepens. Bunje becomes a tireless scribbler of doggerel, much of which he repeats here. Offered a library job in far-off Saskatchewan, Angus builds an ark to hitch onto their coupe and the family sets off on a huge odyssey across Canada to the wildlife- filled prairies that awaken young Mowat to the best days of his life. Born Naked is, like Bunje, wide-eyed and bouncy with the basic joy of being conscious.
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