BOOKS: Wild Asia, Africa’s Animal Kingdom, Bear, & The Grizzly Almanac

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2002:

Wild Asia:
Spirit of a Continent
by Natl. History New Zealand Ltd.
Pelican Publishing (P.O. Box 3110, Gretna, LA 70054), 2000.
192 pages, illust. $49.95 hardback.

Africa’s Animal Kingdom:
A Visual Celebration
by Kit Coppard
Sterling Publishing (387 Park Ave. S.,
New York, NY 10016), 2001.
512 pages, illust. $24.95 paperback.

Bear: A Celebration of Power and Beauty
Photographs by Daniel J. Cox
Text by Rebecca Grambo
Sierra Club Books (c/o Random House, 299 Park Ave., New York, NY
10171), 2000. 175 pp., illust. $50.00 hardback.

The Grizzly Almanac:
A fully illustrated natural & cultural
history of America’s great bear
by Robert H. Busch
The Lyons Press (123 W. 18th St.,
New York, NY 10011), 2000.
229 pages, illust. $29.95 hardcover.

A cynic might suggest that we are reviewing these four
coffee-table titles, published from 18 months to two years ago, not
just in time for Christmas but rather just in time for readers to
find them on remainder tables at steeply marked down prices.
That may be true, yet we hauled the almost entirely
pictorial Wild Asia to China, India, Korea, the Philippines, and
Turkey in 2000 and 2001, though it weighs about as much as a patio
brick, intending to review it along with the “major 10-part
documentary” that it was supposed to accompany. We were initially
told that the documentary series was to air toward the end of 2000,
but if it ever was broadcast, we never found out about it.
Each Wild Asia photo may hold attention longer than the sum
of the text.
Author/photographer Kit Coppard provides relatively extensive
notes about the photographic subjects of Africa’s Animal Kingdom ,
but the written content is decidedly subordinate and is essentially a
travelogue. Again, many and perhaps most of the photos tell the
most attention-grabbing story. If you cannot afford a trip to
Africa, Kit Coppard will take you there, and if you have already
been, he will transport you back.
Rebecca Grambo and Robert H. Busch, though both clearly
admire bears, take contrasting approaches in Bear: A Celebration of
Power and Beauty, and The Grizzy Almanac. Grambo focuses on the
role of bears in Native American culture, reciting any number of
self-serving myths about bears offering themselves to be killed. Yet
Grambo has gathered more authentic Native American bear lore than we
have seen before between one set of covers, and along the way pays
passing homage to Joaquin Miller, whose 1900 volume True Bear
Stories was a prescient appreciation of the many then rapidly
vanishing subspecies of the North American grizzly.
Busch, on the other hand, is an unabashed grizzly advocate,
whose book is by far the least lavishly illustrated of these four,
and the strongest indictment of human destruction of wild habitat and
species. He mentions humans mainly to damn them, and then gets on
with his appreciation of bears.

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