||Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon
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.).
White sturgeon-British Columbia-Fraser River-Juvenile literature.
White sturgeon-Habitat-British Columbia-Fraser River-Juvenile
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
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
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
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.