Kitts, Wendy. 2011. Sable Island, The Wandering Sandbar. Nimbus Publishing Limited, 90 pages.
There are already several authoritative books about Sable Island, including a few specifically written for young readers. Sable Island, The Wandering Sandbar by Wendy Kitts, is presented as a factual book aimed at seven to nine-year olds, and it attempts to offer an original perspective which could justify its addition to the bibliography on the subject.
I was also annoyed with the repetitive use of words such as “wild”, “magical” and “tiny”, beginning with the description of Sable Island as a “tiny sandbar” (page 3). Sable Island may be a small island, but I think most would consider it a rather large sandbar. Similarly irritating is use of the word “baby” to describe various young animals (which should have been referred to as foals, chicks, pups). Why should anything about this remarkable island sound like a romanticized “fairy tale” (page 6)?! Add a few aimless ‘jokes’ (e.g., pages 29, 31, 75) and it all seems like a forced ‘informal’ style. This may be intended to keep young readers interested, but to me it contradicts the attempt to introduce students to non-fiction reading with some new educational terms, and the overall effect seems condescending.
On three occasions (pages 3, 8 and 10) the author refers to Sable Island being in the “middle” of the Atlantic ocean. If it were in the middle of the Atlantic, the island would be over 2000 km from the coast of Nova Scotia. And it is actually less than 200 km from the coast.
The scale for the maps on page 11 is in miles. As a Canadian publication, surely distance should have been given in kilometres. Likewise, centimetres should have been used instead of inches on page 26.
On page 5, the caption for the lower photograph says “A grey seal sunbathes on the beach.” It’s not a Grey Seal, it’s a Harbour Seal.
The photograph on page 15, identified as an albatross, seems inappropriate, considering that these birds do not even inhabit the North Atlantic. Local wildlife should have been used to illustrate the hazards of plastics.
On page 17, in the sidebar text, the author explains “One day during a storm, the bottom floor of the lightkeeper’s house started filling up with sand. The lightkeeper and his family moved upstairs and went in and out through the windows.” This did not happen. The author is referring to the old house at East Light (shown in the photo). After the light was automated and the lightkeeper had left the island, the house—both upper and lower floors—continued to be used quite comfortably, for more than thirty years, by researchers studying seals and horses.
The aerial photo on page 31 does not show what is described by the sidebar text. These are not the freshwater ponds; Lake Wallace is not in the shot; and the buildings are not those of the station. Rather, these ponds are brackish (salty), Wallace Lake is actually a couple of kilometres east of the area shown; and the buildings visible in the top left-hand corner are at the West Light site.
On page 34, the author mentions “A little sea sponge that grows in Lake Wallace is not found anywhere else…”. There is a sponge found in the freshwater ponds, but it is a freshwater sponge, not a “sea sponge”, and it is not found in salty Lake Wallace.
The photographs on pages 45 and 53 show the skull of an adult Grey Seal. This is not a horse as is stated by the two captions.
On pages 48 and 49, the caption indicates that the two letters shown are examples of those sent during the campaign to save the horses. However, both are post-campaign ‘thank you’ letters.
Page 63, the caption states “Lighthouses, like the West Light above, are now automatic.” However, the West Light is not automatic because it was decommissioned and turned off in 2005.
Prepared for the Sable Island Green Horse Society
by Dominique Gusset (Duncan’s Cove, Nova Scotia), November 2011 ©