cover image Master Elk and the Mountain Lion

Master Elk and the Mountain Lion

Jonathan London, Wayne McLoughlin. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59917-4

This wilderness tale begins and ends with a mountain lion stalking a herd of elk. Through his mother's protection, a baby elk survives the mountain lion's first attack. Years later, after he has grown into the dominant bull, Master Elk recognizes the lion's sudden scent, warns his herd and delivers them to a marshy refuge. The precise, tactile poetry that characterizes London's best work (The Eyes of Gray Wolf; Condor's Egg) loses some force here, partly because McLoughlin's illustrations, dominating each spread, sap rather than empower the story. Disregarding dramatic cues in the text, the artist favors simplified compositions that convey no sense of the varying landscapes (from tule marsh to sheer cliffs) nor of the potential violence and danger. Still, as a realistic narrative featuring endangered and wild species, this volume may merit attention from eco-minded parents. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)