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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Polar Worlds

Reviewed: September 30, 2008
By: Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovaks
Publisher: Scholastic Books
48 pages, $19.99

Quite recently in this column I expressed my annoyance that Robert Bateman just doesn’t seem to get any respect in the art world. This lovely children’s book probably won’t help that situation any more than the last three have, but it’s still worth a look.

This book is divided about equally between the Arctic and Antarctic regions and fully illustrated in Bateman’s trademark realist/naturalist style with about fifty pictures. They range from double page spreads to pencil sketches, though most are in full colour.

They are the result of a number of trips the artist has made to both regions, starting when he assisted in the mapping of an Arctic iron ore deposit in northern Quebec when he was a university student.

“My polar journeys have been highlights in my travels,” he writes in his introduction.

While the text here is not written down for kids at all, the structure of the book is like many non-fiction children’s books: double page spreads with text and a sketch on one side and a colour picture on the other. The major entries also have sidebar “facts about” sections to complement the narrative style of the main text.

In the Arctic polar bears, grizzlies, walruses, caribou wolves, whales and seals get this treatment while lesser creatures are grouped together.

At the other end of the world, penguins get a four page treatment, while other animals and birds get the standard two pages.

Each section has an article about survival strategies in that particular ecosystem. There is a glossary at the end for some of the more specialized terminology.

The text is personal in tone as well as informative, but I have to admit I spent most of my time looking at the incredible artwork.

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