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The Complete Up North    by Doug Bennett, Tim Tiner & Marta Lynne Scythes order for
Complete Up North
by Doug Bennett
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Complete Up North: A Guide to Ontario's Wilderness from Black Flies to the Northern Lights by Doug Bennett and Tim Tiner (and filled with meticulous black and white sketches by Marta Lynne Scythes) is an excellent resource for anyone who lives in the area, enjoys its cottage country on a regular basis, or simply plans a visit. This newly updated and expanded edition combines Up North and Up North Again and includes 'new information on scores of species'.

The journalist authors tell us that their book is 'an attempt to answer, from a sense of wonder, a good number of the questions prompted by our experiences in the woods and wilderness when we go up north.' Main sections address Animal Kingdom (Birds, Creepy Crawlies, Fish, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians); Plant Kingdom (Plants, Trees); The Heavens (Day Sky, Night Sky, including a discussion of Falling Stars); and Mother Earth.

I love the lyrical tone of the topic summaries - 'Tiny Wonder Fuelled on Nectar' for the Hummingbird; 'Spirit of the North Woods' for the Loon; 'Tying the Forest Together' for Mushrooms; or 'Mother Nature's Kidneys' for Wetlands. Each entry has a sidebar of statistics such as Lifespan, Weight, Markings, Calls, Food, and Lifespan for Animals; and Height, Frequent Diners and Range for Plants.

But this delightful volume is not just filled with facts. Though it does provide an impressive reference to central Ontario's flora and fauna, I enjoyed it more for information like the fact that loons 'are sacred birds, bridging the material and spiritual worlds in a continuum of ancient lore from eastern North America all the way to central Siberia' or a quote from an Alfred Tennyson poem on 'a newly emerged dragonfly'.

There's an intriguing entry on reports of Lake Monsters in the region; a historical summation of sociological impacts of changes in beaver trapping from the sustainable Native approach to the European market system; the story of how Winnie-the-Pooh's name came from Canadian bear cup Winnipeg, given to the London Zoo; and the fact that the 'lotus flowers sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, ancient Egyptians and Mayans are tropical relatives of Ontario's water lily.'

The Complete Up North is a lovely book, one that I'm very happy to have at hand as I watch the seasons change in the woods around me, catch glimpses of chipmunks and deer, herons and loons, and stroll out at night to stargaze. My copy will soon be well-thumbed.

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