Melissa Walker (author), Richard Walker (illustrator); A PLACE FOR DELTA; Whale Tale Press (Middle Readers: Fiction) $16.95 ISBN: 9780982478400
Although animal adventures are a perennial favorite in juvenile literature, the most notable books are those that stretch beyond the story and truly reach, engage, and teach readers about the world and about themselves. A Place for Delta is such a book. The adventure storyline pairs with meaningful themes, and makes readers aware of world issues without being heavily moralistic.
As children, Ben and Kate, along with their friend Rachel and biologist mother Lisi, explored and learned from the wilderness surrounding their Georgia farmhouse. These experiences have guided Kate into her studies as a wildlife biologist. Now Kate, a graduate student, has asked Ben and Rachelas son, eleven-year-old Joseph, to join her in Alaska for the summer for a very special assignment. A polar bear cub who Kate names Delta has been orphaned, and Joseph is going to help care for her. While there, Joseph meets Ada, an Eskimo girl native to Alaska, and together they must help uncover the mystery surrounding Deltaas motheras death, and also figure out, literally, a place for Delta to call home.
Author Melissa Walker is a leader in wilderness preservation, and she has incorporated appreciation of Earth and all its creatures as a major theme of the book. Lisi allows her children and grandchild to explore, both alone and as a family, and teaches them to observe but never intrude on the bears, snakes, salamanders, and other creatures inhabiting the forty acres of wilderness around their home. While this is most clearly shown through the Morse family interactions, Walker continues this message in smaller details and touches, such as observations of the beluga and orca whales in Alaska. It seems as though the novel seeks to help connect children with nature with comments such as aWhen weare in the woods, we feel our wildness.a
Walker also includes some of the challenges to preservation, such as hunting and a controversy involving oil companies that may be using deplora-ble methods to get around government regulations. While the consequences of such actions are addressed honestly, the book avoids sounding preachyaa major...