Who knew the life and times of the beaver could be so fascinating?
Poliquin and Frith have created a nonfiction page-turner in this fascinating guide to Castor canadensis (and, to some extent, their Eurasian counterparts, Castor fiber). The facts unfold via the story of a Canadian beaver named Elmer and his partner of six years, Irma. Elmer and Irma are introduced to readers as superheroes of the animal kingdom, with a series of superpowers that include “chainsaw teeth,” an “ever-toiling tail,” and “paws of power.” Although these examples may sound grandiose, Poliquin explains the importance of each in easily digestible chapters that inform and entertain. A gender-equalizing break in Chapter 6 reminds readers that while Elmer may be the star of the book, the same facts are all true for Irma as well. Quizzes throughout test readers’ abilities to retain information (and there’s a note in the third quiz reminding readers not to write in a library book). Frith’s illustrations are an homage to the commercial-art stylings of the late 1950s and early ’60s. The designs—a mixture of black ink, pencil, and wax crayon on paper (with digital color)—are amusing but a little too reminiscent of the last century, as every human character in the book is default white. It’s a sour taste in an otherwise deliciously sweet dessert. The backmatter provides a glossary and a bibliography but, alas, no pronunciation guide.
Well worth the purchase. (Nonfiction. 8-12)