The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World’s Largest Land Biome by L.E. Carmichael, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon


   The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World’s Largest Land Biome by L.E. Carmichael, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon, Kids Can Press, 9781525300448, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Oversize hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Filled with beautiful full-color and occasionally impressionistic drawings, this nonfiction picture book explores the boreal forest, the world’s largest land biome. Stretching across the northern hemisphere, from Canada to Japan, the forest plays an important role in maintaining the health of the Earth, but most people don’t think of it as a single entity. Combining geography with science, Carmichael visits each country that hosts the biome (a banner introduces the various countries) and looks at the passage of seasons in each. A strong, almost poetic, narrative on each page describes the passage of seasons while sharing space with colorful panels that include information about land and animal life in each country. Fact panels range from the bizarre (bears eat clay to firm up their poop) to basic information (migratory birds flock to the biome). Other panels highlight threats to the biome from climate change. The illustrations are detailed enough to see animals’ unique adaptations, such as the aptly named star-nosed mole whose 22 tentacles contain touch receptors for finding food.  At the end of the book, two large double-page spreads illustrate the water cycle and the carbon cycle. A substantial glossary, further reading and source notes complete the offerings. I liked that many elements of this forest biome were ones that students in New England would recognize: owls, moose, migratory birds, fir and spruce trees.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The strong emphasis on seasons was an interesting anchor, but also confusing. We only see Finland and Norway in the winter — what’s it like there in summer? Canada and Russia show up multiple times, which makes sense, because they house huge tracts of forest, but if you miss the small banners, you won’t realize you’ve circled back to view them in a different season. Lack of labels is also a problem. When looking at large tableaus of the wildlife, there’s no indication of which animal is which. In the “China” image, the text mentions Chinese Mergansers, but the picture shows at least half-a-dozen bird species. I also was not a fan of the font called Panforte Pro, used for the narrative text. Crafted to look like hand lettering, I found it challenging to read. And both the narrative and explanatory text fonts were far too small. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students with a keen interest in biomes and diversity. Budding botanists, zoologists and climate scientists who really want to pour over a book will find it captivating. The illustrations indicate it’s for younger children (K-3) but the text and language are better suited to accomplished readers. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? 578.73

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: May 25, 2020

This entry was posted in *Book Review, Animals, Biome, Climate, Climate Change, Ecology, Environment, Geography, Science, Seasons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.