cover image Canoe Days

Canoe Days

Gary Paulsen. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32524-0

The prolific author of such titles as Hatchet and Soldier's Heart turns from adventure and high action to contemplative moments in this not particularly childlike mood piece. Describing a canoe trip around a lake, his prose poem homes in on quiet encounters with nature: ""Sometimes when it is still,"" it begins, ""so still you can hear the swish of a butterfly's wing--sometimes when it is that still I take the canoe out on the edge of the lake."" The images pile up in long, leisurely sentences. The canoe ""slides in green magic without a ripple""; the water ""is a window into the skylake."" Later, the narrator, a man, describes fish, ducks, fox, fawns and other wildlife. Unfortunately, Ruth Wright Paulsen (who previously collaborated with her husband on Dogteam) translates these idylls as static moments in her full-spread paintings. Her grainy oils are realistic but heavy, her fish and animals locked into place with none of the lightness or wonder of the text. The design features two unusual elements: a stylized typeface, imposed atop the paintings, is distracting, but the use of vertical borders in solid colors, alternately contrasting with or complementing the compositions, subtly draws attention to the artist's strong sense of color and helps to create a visual pacing. Even so, the pictures weigh down the text instead of advancing it. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)