North - The Greatest Animal Journey on Earth
Author: Nick Dawson
Illustrator: Patrick Benson
This book caught my eye for several reasons. The first I will admit is the illustrations, you will want to linger on and on upon them. As I browsed through the text, the enormity of the central idea of the book – migration to the Arctic, dawned upon me. A hundred and eighty types of creature undertake the massive journey up to the top of the planet and back every year. The region is no single land mass - instead it comprises of thousands of little islands the area of Russia.
The book explains the voyages in beautiful detail. It tells us of the whale that swims past Los Angeles and San Fransisco and Vancouver and finally into the waters of the Arctic Circle. It tells of birds that fly over from as far as the other end of the planet – the Antarctic. Of pregnant caribou that walk all the way and only then calve, about snow geese that fly over from China and of narwhal and walruses. We read about many more species that brave not only the icy sea lanes and land routes to their destination but also possible starvation and danger from predatory species also migrating similarly.
So why do they do this? The Arctic in spring is a sun-lit paradise with plenty to eat and plenty of space - ideal for the visitors to have their babies. The place teems with life through the summer months.
Once the temperature starts to drop it is time to head south, before the life-draining cold sets in. Very few, like the polar bear, can survive in the changed conditions. It of course chooses to hibernate and bid its time till the next cycle of migration rolls in.
The book also touches upon the damage that global warming is causing. Plankton cannot thrive as it does now and that will cause the entire hierarchy of creature classes to crash.
The book led to an interesting question from my daughter – if humans did not have the ability to control their environment like they can (meaning heating and air-conditioning) would we also migrate back and forth? We have recently relocated to a new country and while we like it here we miss what we have left behind, so I suppose she thinks that migrating like the creatures in this book will let us have our cake and eat it too!