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Author: Thornhill, Jan
Illustrator: Thornhill, Jan
Publisher: Groundwood Books House of Anansi Press
Year Published: 2016
ISBN: 9781554988655
Grades: Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

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Awards:  Finalist – 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards – Young People’s Literature – Illustration
In this narrative non-fiction picture book for upper elementary students, Jan Thornhill tells the story of the Great Auk that led to its extinction in 1844.
This large cold water bird was prolific before the Americas were inhabited.  Thousands flew and nested in the cold climate.  However, over millions of years of evolution its wings and feet became adapted more for swimming than flying, and eventually the Great Auk lost its ability to fly.  It became an easy target for animal and human predators.  Thornhill gives a readable account of the rocky, isolated habitats that protected the Great Auk for many years, of the pictographs found in the caves of early hunters, of the increasing pursuit as hunters became sea-farers and were able to reach the isolated island rookeries.  She tells of the early days when the Great Auk was revered and hunters found a use for all parts of the great bird.  She explains that the Great Auk’s extinction even had some benefit for subsequent species of birds that use the same rocky nesting grounds.  And, it was the extinction of this species that prompted the original laws for conservation, protection of wildlife, and the creation of nature preserves.
With beautiful full-page colour images created and painted on computer using Corel Painter, Thornhill shows readers the change over time and the events that led to the Greak Auk’s final demise.  The paintings are rich in their detail and evocative in their tone, especially the birds’ eyes, as they seem to capture the mood of waiting and watching, their grace and speed in the water, their ghostly spirit after extinction.
End papers include a glossary, map, a list of names given to the Great Auk by various cultures, a list of extinct species, a list of websites, reference books and articles.
With particular appeal for students interested in conservation, rare, endangered, and extinct species.

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