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When the Giant Stirred
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About the Author

Celia Godkin trained as a biologist and worked as a scientific illustrator. An illustration job preparing signs for the Winnipeg zoo led to a collaboration on the book Endangered Species: Canada's Disappearing Wildlife. Encouraged by this success Celia illustrated an ecology story she had written years earlier and showed it to her publisher. The resulting book, Wolf Island, won the Children's Literature Roundtables Best Information Book Award and led to a succession of information storybooks.

Reviews

Godkin (Wolf Island) views nature's "endless cycle of destruction and renewal" through an artistic rather than a scientific lens. Opening on a lilting note, the narrative introduces the "gentle, smiling people" who reside in a sleepy village in a lush paradise. They live off the land, collecting "coconuts from the beaches, fruit from the forest, and fish from the lagoon." A Gauguin-esque portrait of a mother and child draining milk from a coconut typifies the easy mix of cooperation and warmth in this closely knit community. One day, the mountain that towers over their village "rumble[s] like a giant" and refuses to settle down. A full-bleed painting of majestic birds, dominated by red parrots, fleeing the grand green expanse of the island telegraphs the imminent danger. The village chief tells them "the birds were the messengers of the gods" and the people, too, leave their home. The people witness the effects of the volcanic eruption from a safe distance on a new island: a tidal wave rises on the horizon, and "for weeks afterward the sky was black with smoke." Godkin punctuates earth tones with the vivid hues that nature bestows-from the brilliant tropical fish to the vermilion flames of the spouting volcano. These graphics help readers appreciate the contrast between the tranquility of the villagers' initial existence and the violence of the phenomenon that brings it to an end-at least temporarily. A lyrical yet dramatic portrait of nature's cycle. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)

K-Gr 2-An island peopled by gentle inhabitants whose simple existence among the lush fruits, flowers, and forest is threatened by another of the island's features: a belching, cone-shaped mountain. Thus the crux of the story is that while the giant/mountain god is sometimes appeased by floral offerings, one day it is clear that it is about to erupt and leave only a barren smoking ruin. The people flee to a new island and "month by month, year by year" as they reestablish themselves, the old island, too, begins to renew itself. Nature's life cycle is complete. Godkin posits this story of loss and renewal as the "legend" of a volcanic island. The publisher marks it with a seal: "Informational Storybook." There have been a number of recent books that intermingle fact and fiction, more often fictionalizing nonfiction. This offering is an attempt at the opposite, and it is not entirely successful. The text is matter-of-fact with declarative sentences; the flow one is accustomed to in "legend" is missing. The repetitive refrain, "on the island," becomes an annoyance rather than a storytelling device. The illustrations, done in oils, have a primitive flatness that almost suggests Gauguin's Tahiti, but they lack spirit and form. The colors are not as saturated as they might be to draw readers in; the people seem either expressionless or angry, not content or fearful as the text suggests. The book is neither legend nor science and because it does not clearly establish itself as either, it falters.-Harriett Fargnoli, Great Neck Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Once in a while, an informational picture book comes along that is special. This is one of those times! The text outlines the story of a volcanic island as it changes from a lush fertile paradise to a cataclysmic end with an eventual new beginning. Along the way, we learn about the island before the eruption; the flora, fauna and people. The text is clear, as well as poetic and describes the original beauty of the island in perfect evocative detail. The drama of one of nature's great disasters is retold in such a way, that the reader sees, smells and feels everything as it unfolds. But the real triumph of this book is the illustrations! The oil paintings of the island in all its stages of growth, destruction and rebirth are beautifully rendered in warm, jewel like tones. A must for all school and public libraries."
- ResourceLinks "This book works well on many levels: at the same time as young readers learn about natural regeneration and tropical life, they will absorb at a subconscious level the post-impressionist style of painting."
- City Parent "A captivating nature genre book that is in tune with the fragile balance of all life...this perfect blend of dramatic artwork and text makes this book a must for schools, libraries and homes."
- The Blue Planet


"Once in a while, an informational picture book comes along that is special. This is one of those times! The text outlines the story of a volcanic island as it changes from a lush fertile paradise to a cataclysmic end with an eventual new beginning. Along the way, we learn about the island before the eruption; the flora, fauna and people. The text is clear, as well as poetic and describes the original beauty of the island in perfect evocative detail. The drama of one of nature's great disasters is retold in such a way, that the reader sees, smells and feels everything as it unfolds. But the real triumph of this book is the illustrations! The oil paintings of the island in all its stages of growth, destruction and rebirth are beautifully rendered in warm, jewel like tones. A must for all school and public libraries."
- ResourceLinks
"This book works well on many levels: at the same time as young readers learn about natural regeneration and tropical life, they will absorb at a subconscious level the post-impressionist style of painting."
- City Parent
"A captivating nature genre book that is in tune with the fragile balance of all life...this perfect blend of dramatic artwork and text makes this book a must for schools, libraries and homes."
- The Blue Planet

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