Shaw puts an ecological spin on an Ojibwa fable about pride and its consequences.
Instead of joining obnoxious Beaver in admiring his big, fuzzy tail, Bird, Deer and Fish go off about their businesses—and so are not around when a tree falls on it. Dragging the tail free leaves it flat and furless. Repenting both pride and bad behavior, Beaver works busily on building a dam as winter comes, and when he apologizes to his animal friends in spring, they commend him for leaving twigs for Bird’s nest, clearing woodland spaces for Deer’s forage to grow, and creating a warm pond for Fish. Along with adding this last part to traditional versions—and explaining in an afterword that beavers, as a “keystone species,” actually perform these functions in woodland ecosystems—the author retells the tale in contemporary language. “I’m just saying,” Beaver informs Fish, “this tail of mine is absolutely the most magnificent tail a creature could have.” Mirroring the changing seasons with a rich color scheme, van Frankenhuyzen poses large, realistically rendered animal figures in idyllic outdoor settings. He communicates Beaver’s emotional state largely through body language, though a few subtle facial expressions occasionally sneak in. There is no sourcing aside from the statement that the story is from the Ojibwa tradition.
An easily digestible fable with a simple moral and added classroom value as a natural science add-on. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)