Monday, August 16, 2010

The Siege of White Deer Park by Colin Dann

I happened upon this book in a used book store and grabbed it. Turns out it's one of several sequels to a book called The Animals of Farthing Wood, a Watership Down-type book. I'm going to have to chase it down.

The Siege of White Deer Park is about a group of animals who live in a nature reserve; apparently they traveled there in the first book, and this one starts out catching the reader up on several of the main characters. It's a poignant summary because this story is set several years after the previous books, and several of the characters have died. It's an odd start, but it drew me in immediately. The best talking-animal books are ones where the realities of nature are important without being overstated.

The book is simply written and swift-moving in a quiet way. The animals have to band together to face a threat that's visited them from outside the park--a predator no one has seen and lived to tell about. The mystery in the first part of the story, as the animals search for clues and catch glimpses of the strange beast, was definitely my favorite part.

I won't tell too much about the plot since I don't want to spoil the mystery. I will say that this is a very British book, and American kids will probably go "so what?" when they figure out what the beast is. I was a little disappointed myself, for that matter. But the story is interesting and the characters appealing. It's also a very fast read.

I was a little annoyed that all the main characters--except one, Vixen, who didn't really do much--were male. The author mentions more than once that in spring, the females are too busy rearing young to do much else, but that strikes me as being a little bit glib. I don't know much about foxes, but I do know that females of most species go out and hunt or forage even when they've got young at home. Keeping the females of this story in the background struck me as sexist and not at all realistic. That was my only real argument with the book, though, which was otherwise charming.

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