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Book Reviews

Wild Bog Tea

by Annette LeBox, Harvey Chan, illus.

The cover of Wild Bog Tea is irresistible, with Harvey Chan’s exquisite sepia-toned pencil drawings on a collage of richly textured, tea-stained papers. Inside, the words and pictures are just as intriguing. The tone is nostalgic, the narrator a grown man remembering his grandfather and the bog where they played hide-and-seek, danced like cranes, and picked cranberries and sprigs of Labrador tea. The bog passes through natural periods of growth and transition, as do the boy and his grandfather. When the grandfather dies, the narrator feels his presence in the scent of wild plum, the soft hummocks of moss, and the taste of wild bog tea.
This subtle, poetic book differs greatly from Annette LeBox’s first bog story, The Princess Who Danced With Cranes, where princesses, sports, and a fairytale style supported her theme with obvious kid appeal. Wild Bog Tea demands more of the reader, but it’s worth it. Abundant references to specific bog flora and fauna are woven into the lyrical text, and while young readers may not understand every word, they will relish the sense of a wild, magical place where plants swallow insects and tall birds dance. An author’s note explains more about bog ecosystems and why it is necessary to preserve them.
The evocative illustrations by Chan (winner of the Governor General’s Award for Ghost Train) are reminiscent of a naturalist’s sketchbook, aged and torn over time, then pieced together like fragments of memory. Labels (hand-lettered, in keeping with the sketchbook style) would have enhanced the drawings in the non-fiction section. Otherwise, this book is an excellent tool for teaching units on aging or bog ecosystems.