Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What Beavers Do - Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds

Beaver Dam: Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay  I added text.

What Skeet Sees


My photo of  book cover
Skeet is a young deer mouse who lives in a burrow on a spruce knoll above a swamp in a peaceful valley. A brook runs past the knoll toward a pond. Skeet lives with his mother, his sister Samantha, his baby brother Loopey, and his grandfather, Overdare.

One day while he's getting a drink in the brook, he hears something making a loud splashing sound. He was curious, so he drew nearer to the sound. He heard a high-pitched whistle. The splashing stopped. Then he saw a dark brown head looking cautiously around an edge of grass. He had never seen such an odd creature as that which emerged. He thought it looked comical with its large orange front teeth and its paddle-like tail. Skeet stopped being afraid because he could see this awkward creature would never be fast enough to catch him. The creature was soon joined by five more like it.

Skeet ran home to ask Overdare what these creatures might be. “'Beaver!' exclaimed Skeet's grandfather....'I hoped I'd never see in my lifetime when beaver get into this valley.'” (p, 7)

Overdare confirmed the beaver weren't dangerous to mice, since they didn't eat meat. So Skeet couldn't understand why his grandfather didn't want them around. Overdare explained:

“Beaver...think they know the way everything ought to be in any place they settle down. If it isn't that way, they make it so, and they don't care a bit what happens to anyone else in the process.” (p. 8)

What the Beavers Do


Grandfather hopes the beaver will leave, but curious Skeet hopes they hang around long enough for him to watch. And watch he does. He sees the beavers build a dam, chop down trees, raise the level of the pond, build a canal for transporting logs from the places where they had felled them, and build a second dam. The water level kept rising higher and higher.

Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds
Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds


What Author Walter D. Edmonds Thinks of Beavers


Edmonds was raised in upper New York State in the small town of Boonville. He frequently observed beaver at his family home, Northlands, along the Black River . He personally saw how negatively the beavers impacted the ecosystem when they moved into an area.

Beavers have always fascinated me. Most of us who have never seen one in the wild think of them positively because they are such industrious animals. Teachers often hold up the hardworking beavers as examples their students should follow. Edmonds seems to see them as industriously destroying their environment to please themselves.

He reveals this attitude in one of the book's last sentences. He describes a mother who had brought her young son to the spruce knoll for a picnic to see the beaver ponds. She wanted to teach her son some natural history. She didn't seem interested in all the dying trees whose roots had gotten too wet. She was only interested in all the work the beavers had done building their dams, their home, and their canal. Let's eavesdrop on her:

“Isn't it wonderful, Tommy?....They're as clever as engineers. They're just like men.” (p, 69)

Should You or Your Child Read This Book?


Whether you love beavers or not, you will learn a lot about their behavior in this book from one who has observed beavers over time. Older readers will pick up the author's attitude. The book would be perfect to read aloud as a family and discuss. 

The author shows us each step in the beavers' transformation of the valley, and suspense builds as the water level rises. Skeet at first is just curious. But as the water level continues to rise, he realizes that animals in burrows on lower ground will lose their homes. Some don't get out in time and are trapped to die. Skeet and his family wonder if they, too, will have to find a new home.

The copy of the book I have is illustrated by Leslie Morrill. I love her drawing of the beavers and the mice. Her hand-drawn maps help readers keep track of the changes in the valley.

Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration
Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration


This is chapter book is at a grade 3-5 reading level. It's a great book for homeschoolers. Almost any age from kindergarten on will find it interesting. Why not get a copy for your home library?

This book is out of print. It is still available at Amazon

All quotes and book illustration photos are from this book: Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds, illustrated by Leslie Morrill; Little, Brown and Company, 1971.

Learn more about beavers and other wild animals in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. I review some of my favorite picture books about animals here. You may also enjoy fellow contributor Renaissance Woman's review of Deep Creek.  





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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12 comments:

  1. Nothing more destructive to its surrounding area than beavers; despite being such an industrious little animal. This is a terrific book review of Beaver Valley and Walter D. Edmonds' description of what beavers do!

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    1. I was really surprised to learn how destructive beavers were to the environment. Yet I continue to be amazed at their engineering skills.

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  2. I have never actually lived around beavers myself, but I have certainly heard they can be detrimental to an area. I remember a true story about an area that wanted rid of their beavers so much that they brought in alligators. I don't think that was a good solution! Still, it demonstrates how desperate people can be when they are dealing with beavers.

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    1. Alligators do seem quite extreme as a solution. I don't think the beavers deserve that kind of fate. Of course I have never lived near any alligators or beavers. I find reading about either of them fascinating.

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  3. What a wonderful story and message. Beavers are a of course one of the National Emblems of Canada. Super cute too. This book will go on my idea list for gifts, thank you.

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    1. One of our local wineries in my home town is named after beavers. The Castoro Cellars tagline is "Dam fine wine." It appears on all their labels. "Castoro" means "beaver" in some other language, but I can't remember which one right now. I'm working on my phone and it's harder to look it up here.

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  4. Wow, this certainly is a book that sheds a whole different light on what beavers can do. I have seen beavers working on a dam before, but never really paid too much attention to the plight of the area where they are working. I guess they can be pretty destructive in ways that we would never think of, unless we lived right there. Thanks for a great book review for kids!

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    1. Although this was written for kids, there are subtle messages that perhaps only adults would catch.

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  5. I'd never considered the full ecological impact of beavers. Thanks for a thought-provoking review. I do find them to be quite interesting creatures and have seen them in the wild. Despite the damage, they are just doing what they are hard-wired to do.

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    1. I've always thought it would be fun to watch beavers at work. I agree they only do what God intended them to do. They aren't the only animals that harm other animals. At least they don't prey on other animals.

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  6. Sounds informative and thoughtful ! Beaver dams truly are an architectural wonder!

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    1. I've always wanted to see a beaver dam, but I've never been lucky enough to be near one.

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