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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Book Review:
Tale of a Great White Fish:
A Sturgeon Story
by Gillian Richardson - Manitoba Library Association
Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story.

Maggie de Vries. Illustrated by Renné Benoit.
Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 2006.
42 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55365-303-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55365-125-3 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
White sturgeon-British Columbia-Fraser River-Juvenile literature.
White sturgeon-Habitat-British Columbia-Fraser River-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Gillian Richardson.


Thirty years later: 1858

30 years old

1.7 m (5.6 feet) long

32 kg (71 pounds)

Little Fish is no longer small. She is Fish now, ready to spawn for the first time.

Filled with thousands of eggs, Fish leaves the lake to swim up the Fraser, back to the place of her own beginning. Swimming upstream is hard, but her body tells her that she must.

Far up the river, the water runs fast and furious, but Fish is strong. She keeps going.

She swims past gold panners seeking riches. She swims beneath canoes carrying First Nations people from shore to shore. She swims through the clear blue water of the Thompson River as it mixes with the muddy Fraser. She swims back to the spot where she started out as a tiny egg settling among the rocks on the river floor.

The most vibrant and popular star of the Fraser River in BC might be the mighty salmon, but its four-year life span pales in comparison to that of the White Sturgeon, a fish that may live beyond the 177 years detailed in this book. Having existed since before dinosaurs roamed the earth, this species and its story will intrigue young readers who are fans of other prehistoric creatures. The book follows the life cycle of one fish hatched in the spring of 1828 in the upper reaches of the Fraser. The dated entries in the fish's life show major events such as her first return to the spawning ground at age 30, being caught and released for the first time at age 69, escaping the Hells Gate rock slide of 1913, nearly being grounded at age 96 as her lake dries up, and finally being measured and tagged at age 177 in 2005. At the book's end, Fish had not completed her life but would have contributed thousands of offspring to maintain the species. A reader cannot help but admire this heroic lifetime of achievements against such odds as eagles, human fishers, and environmental changes.

Thoroughly researched text and full-page lively watercolour illustrations trace Fish's journey. The straightforward writing style will be accessible to newly independent readers, but it is equally appealing to adults. The larger type is set on plenty of white space while the illustrations occupy full pages and often flow across double-spreads and off the page. To emphasize Fish's enormous size, she is usually only partially pictured.

The author has introduced Rick Hansen into this story, a Canadian hero best known for his Man in Motion accomplishments. As a boy, Hansen recalls seeing a huge White Sturgeon leaping in the river. Years later, he became involved with conservation efforts to save the endangered species. His letter to readers included at the end of the book attests to his continuing concern. A page of facts, labelled drawing of the fish and a glossary of terms used in the story complete the book.

This highly attractive book with its fascinating story of one rare creature's survival will make a valuable contribution to the growing collection of children's literature about conservation issues.

Highly Recommended.

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