Readers who have enjoyed Ryden's wildlife books ( God's Dog ; Bobcat Year ) will find this one irresistible. The first beaver she spotted at the lily-covered pond in Harriman State Park (N.Y.) was a huge male who appeared every evening to inspect the 150-foot dam; he was followed by a female and two kits. Ryden observed the family for four years, recording their activities and noting births, deaths, departures and a major move. Inevitably, she became involved with the animals--bringing food during a severe winter, helping the beavers save the dam when a vandal destroyed it, hand-feeding the feeble old matriarch in her final days. Ryden, who found beavers to be intensely social and highly intelligent, discusses the animals' importance in the ecosystem as they leave one pond and build another dam elsewhere. This is captivating natural history. Illustrations not seen by PW. First serial to Readers Digest; BOMC and QPB alternates. (Oct.)
This is a diary of observations by naturalist/writer Ryden. This type of coverage can be interesting and enlightening, but Ryden is trying to pass it off as research. For example: Because there was no evidence of aspen by the pond, she assumes (wrongly) that these beavers have never tasted it, while beavers, in fact, do move beyond their home sites. Ryden is not satisfied to observe; she interferes, particularly when she feeds the beavers when she assumes that they need her help. Although this book's style may be entertaining to some, Better information can be obtained from wildlife magazines. Not recommended. BOMC and Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections.-- Mary J. Nickum, Fish and Wildlife Reference Svce., Bethesda, Md.