To add to the long list of children's books about Maine (think of Barbara Cooney's, for example), here is a tale of the time before people lived in the North Landpart fable and part creation myth. The mighty Mount Katahdin and the awesome Atlantic Ocean each claim to be the most beautiful place in the North. Their go-between is the bald eagle who flies over the land between them. When the gifts of each (an icicle, sea spray, a wildflower wreath, shells) prove unconvincing, the mountain and the sea go at it in a mighty battle that destroys the North Land, leaving it desolate. Each adversary admits the other's beauty, but only time and melting snows can restore the pine forests and rocky inlets to unite the mountain with the sea. Expansive double-page spreads in blues, emerald greens, and browns add to the drama of the feud and display some of Maine's distinctive flora and fauna. The final picture shows the land today, with Katahdin towering over a purple-blue sea, a white-sailed schooner, and the steady glow of a lighthouse near the shore. Children might enjoy comparing this local tale (both writer and illustrator live in Maine) with more ancient creation stories and trying their hand at writing one about their own region. Teachers could find it a useful comparison to traditional fables; for example, the contest between the sun and the wind, or a lively introduction to a unit on Maine or New England. 2003, Down East Books, Ages 6 up.
Barbara L. Talcroft
Gr 2-4-In this fable set in Maine, Mount Katahdin and the Atlantic Ocean each boasts that it is "the most beautiful place in the North Land." When attempts to best one another fail (an icicle sent by the mountain to the ocean melts, a necklace of shells is crushed on its way to the mountain), they declare war, destroying all the land in between. "Katahdin triggered its mightiest thunderstorms, most frigid blizzards, and strongest avalanches-"; "The Atlantic fired its flooding waters, wildest waves, and harshest hurricanes-." Sollers's strong paintings give form to the feuding entities. The resolution of the story is a little forced (they can at last see one another's beauty, and "It was as if the new bond between the great mountain and the great ocean was so strong that it spread their wondrous beauty in all directions"), as is the excuse for the war in the first place. The mythic magic of Maine is better seen in Robert McCloskey's A Time of Wonder (1957) or Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius (1982, both Viking).-Kathleen Whalin, York Public Library, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.