Book Reviews of Northwoods Wildlife Region

1. "The Northwoods is a region of great natural beauty and wild solitude. It encompasses an area of North America, characterized by coniferous and hardwood forests, that extends across the northern tier of states and southern Canada from Minnesota-Manitoba to the Atlantic Ocean. A narrow band extends south along the Appalachian highlands giving 'northwoods access' to millions of people. The expressed purpose of this attractive handbook is to provide simple descriptions of the varied habitats, plants, and animals one is likely to encounter in this vast region. With species recognition capability and ecological understanding, the authors believe that enhanced appreciation of the natural world will facilitate development of a conservation ethic. Few natural history buffs would argue with this perception.

"The Conraders are indeed talented naturalists. Their skills in writing, photography, and illustration are abundantly evident in this collaborative project. As a retired biologist, Jay has gained national stature as a nature photographer. Constance, a librarian and artist, is simply superb with pen and ink. Their understanding of ecological relationships and conservation imperatives is apparent throughout the narrative.

"Following an introductory overview, various habitats (coniferous and hardwood forests, freshwater environments, openings and rocky areas) are discussed briefly. The core of the book is the coverage of plants, animals, birds, reptiles, and snakes. Here is where the substance reflects the authors' intimate acquaintance with the subject matter. The chapter 'Plants of the Northwoods' is outstanding as a guide for dealing with an intrinsically difficult subject. Each of the 469 pen and ink drawings is grouped according to taxonomic family. There is a short descriptive statement about each species, including the common and scientific name, its size, habitat preference, etc. A surprising amount of solid information is packed into each page.

"This little book has a real place in the canoe, hiker's pack, glove compartment, or tackle box. Its potential as a field guide is somewhat limited owing to the range of coverage and the unfortunate lack of color illustrations--an obvious publishing cost issue. Nevertheless, it is a valuable single-source reference, especially where space and weight are important considerations, and they always are. With the addition of margin notes, one can record information about species observations in what amounts to being a preprinted journal--great for recall! I found the book to be quite useful for this purpose during two trips to Maine last summer." (Jack DeForest, Naturalist Review, Summer 1986)

2. "A new book by Jay and Constance Conrader...provides an informational, artistic, and philosophical picture of the Northwoods area....The book covers an area seldom explored by other nature guide books. To write the book, the Conraders traveled extensively in the Northwoods, which extends from the southeast corner of Manitoba eastward to New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and reaches from central Ontario and Newfoundland on the north to the latitude of central Wisconsin, following the Appalachian Mountain heights as far as North Carolina.

"Through text and photographs, the book reveals the ecological unity within this broad area and gives an insight into those qualities that make the Northwoods a unique natural region. Its clear descriptions and delicate, detailed drawings simplify the identification of the plants and animals found there.

"Authored by Jay and illustrated by his wife, Constance, the book's authenticity is the result of the author's years of field experience and carefully researched facts verified by first-hand observation. The artist has drawn each plant, from life, with painstaking care for accuracy. The drawings of animals and birds show concern for both the scientific and the artistic qualities of life. The Conraders devoted many years to the preparation of this book. 'We wanted it to be a field guide with a difference,' they said, 'not just another in a long list of excellent nature guides. We have traveled far and searched long to find species in their habitats, because we wanted to rely on our own observations and not on second-hand knowledge.'

The book contains information not found in others, they said. For example, most plants show a detail drawing of the fruit and the flower, making it easier to identify the plant when it is out of bloom. Producing the book entailed trips to the field at different seasons, and over periods of years to view the plants in all stages of their life cycles, they said. 'But along with the informational value, we wanted to make the book beautiful as well,' they said. On sunny summer days and blustery fall ones alike, the Conraders explored and observed the wildlife of the area they enjoyed so much in order to share it with other nature lovers. 'The work started out of love for the area, and grew into a commitment to quality that didn't allow us to skimp on any part of its creation. We have been blessed with a very patient publisher.' " ("Local Authors Explore Northland," Oconomowoc Enterprise, March 22, 1984)

3. "The Northwoods as defined by the authors is a strip of land reaching from Minnesota across Southern Canada and the Northern United States to the Atlantic Ocean. A primarily forested region, the Conraders feel that it has a wild solitude and beauty that makes it unique. Northwoods Wildlife Region is an unusual book because the authors haven't focused on just one aspect of the region. They have tried to give the reader a broader, more generalized view. They talk a bit about the geologic subdivisions, the climate, the forest, the plants, the freshwater areas, the fields, the animals, the birds, and go all they way down to the amphibians and reptiles. The only things missing here are the insects.

"The book has both color plates and intricate drawings done by Constance Conrader which are designed to help the reader identify various plants and animals. They are excellent. A glossary at the back of the book is helpful in defining unknown terms and the index for looking up various species is a necessity. Northwoods Wildlife Region may not list every single plant and animal that exists in the woods--but the book gives the beginner a good start at identifying the more common ones. What is most important to me, however, is that the authors haven't just thrown a mess of facts and figures at the reader. They have taken the time to sit down and create an easy, readable book which helps provide a sense of the Northwoods as a whole." (Lee Benson, "A sense of the 'Northwoods', " The Enterprise, Bristol, NH, October 23, 1984)