In 1948 it rained beavers.
That’s not quite true – 76 beavers were parachuted into the Idaho wilderness that year as part of an effort to revive a landscape left barren by manmade activities. The idea was formulated by a game warden and pilot named Elmo Heter, who began his project several years earlier with a beaver named Geronimo. This is their story.
Beavers Away! (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2016) was written and illustrated by Jennifer Lovett, a conservation biologist and former art teacher – as well as an advocate and supporter of The Fur-Bearers. The book is told from the romanticized perspectives of Elmo and Geronimo, but remains largely factual – particularly in regards to the ecological importance of beavers.
Throughout the first portion of the book – the story of Elmo and Geronimo – key phrases and words are bolded, making it easier for readers to identify terminology and technical words that can used as part of a grade school research project, or reviewed in the glossary in the back of the publication. Following the story, readers can learn more about the evolutionary history of beavers, their role as a keystone species, and how they’re impacting groundwater and droughts.
Lovett was able to delicately express the discomfort that relocation can cause to wildlife, though likely due to the age of her audience, did not provide insights into the dangers of reintroduction – something parents or advocates can discuss more appropriately with individual children.
The book invokes images of an old journal: faded paper, earthy tones, a plethora of images in both pencil and water colours.
Overall, Beavers Away! is a charming book that will provide youth – and even adults – insight into creative thinking, the spectacular eco-engineering of beavers, and the importance of ecological protection.