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by Jonathan London & illustrated by Jon Van Zyle

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7922-7561-6
Publisher: National Geographic

Spectacular paintings show the Ptarmigan, or Arctic grouse, through the seasons as he struggles to survive both the harsh climate and a host of predators. The tale begins with white and silvery scenes of the Arctic winter, with the snowshoe hare, lemming, and pure white Ptarmigan evading a lynx, snowy owl, weasel, and wolverine. In summer the Ptarmigan, wearing the dappled brown feathers that help the adult birds and chicks blend into the thick brush, faces still more predators. The artist provides double-paged layouts, using acrylic paints on Masonite board to capture the drama of the land and inhabitants, changing his palette for each season and animal. The snowy owl is white and silver against a silver-gray sky and pale, lemon moon. The red fox shimmers “flame colored in the low sun,” as he leaps amid the gold September leaves and slender, white tree trunks. In winter the ptarmigan huddles in the snow, blue and white against the iridescent northern lights. The Alaskan artist often includes thumbnail sketches inside the paintings to show details, a clutch of eggs, the feathered foot of the ptarmigan, a newly hatched chick. The lyrical text, with its recurring refrain, “Gone again ptarmigan,” conveys the author’s admiration for the hardy bird and builds excitement on each page. He concludes with additional facts. A solid nature title, with paintings that are a visual delight and a text that reads like poetry. (Nonfiction. 5-10)