Sep 3, 2009


Majestic Creatures of the Wild
edited by Ian Stirling

I've been thinking about bears lately. Not only because I've read a few books about different species in the past week, but because they've also been featured in some of the fiction I read. In Reindeer Moon, the primitive people would sometimes find where a bear had denned for the winter, and dig it out for meat. In Daughters of the Sunstone, some of the people on an imaginary planet passed the winter in an induced sleep, to avoid starvation when resources were scarce, as bears do.

In Bears: Majestic Creatures of the Wild, I learned about how bears hibernate, and all kinds of other fascinating things. This is one of those heavy coffe-table type books full of beautiful photos I've had for a long time, enthralled by the pictures, but a bit intimidated by its size for reading. It was actually pretty easy to get through, most of it well-written and interesting. The book has several main sections, written by a variety of scientists. It discusses the evolutionary history of bears (answering a few of my questions about pandas), their biology and behavior. Each of the eight bear species has its own chapter, then there is a part about bears and people, everything from ancient bear myths and fables, to how bears have figured in art, to how bears have been affected by people hunting them, putting them in zoos and circuses, and finally, conservation efforts. This part dated the book somewhat, as it stated that the polar bear is the least threatened of all the bear species. Whereas whenever I think of global warming, the first thing that comes to mind is all those polar bears now facing starvation because the ice caps are melting. The only part of the book I found disappointing were the chapters on bears in mythology, culture and art. The information wasn't presented as well, some parts felt choppy, others not unclear. And this was the part I was most curious about! However, if you want an all-around book about bears, this is an excellent choice with many wonderful illustrations.

This book came to me as a library discard, with no cover. So the image shown here is one I put together from my scrap file.

Rating: 3/5 ....... 240 pages, 1993

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