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Illustrated by Lisa Flather
This latest addition to the 'Fantastic Journey' series for children of about eight to ten years tells of the three-month journey north through Canada to the shores of the Arctic Ocean made by female Caribou to their 'birthing grounds'. This is a journey driven by instinct taking the animals through snow where food is hard to find, across strong flowing rivers and past predatory wolves. Children will be engaged by the sheer drama of the story; brutal details are not hidden - when a small calf is devoured by a wolf 'a gush of scarlet stains the snow' and an old female is reduced to 'a heap of torn flesh'. There are gentler, poetic images too - the tread of many caribou beat the snow solid 'into a gleaming ribbon of white ice' and the steaming breath of the journeying animals 'hangs like a cloud above them.' The book succeeds in communicating a particularly strong sense of place, partly through the well written text which mentions a specific lake (Contwoyto) and river (the Mara) in the northern tundra and partly through the fine pictures of the animals and the landscapes. All this, together with the annotated map in the frontispiece, makes reading the book a possible starting point for systematic science and geography work: young readers have been helped to start thinking about animal life and behaviour, migration patterns and the role of the predator in nature. There is enough content here to interest older primary school children who would also be extended by a sophisticated vocabulary and use of punctuation. It is a convention of the information story genre that animals are given names: this gentle anthropo-morphism is likely to bring about a close empathy with the trials faced by Ragged Ear and her calf Soft Ear in a harsh environment.