Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Review: The Slippers’ Keeper

Publish March 20, 2015

The Slippers’ Keeper, by award-winning author and illustrator Ian Wallace, is a picture book biography of the early Canadian conservationist, Joe Purdon.  In the 1930’s, Joe notices a patch of wild orchids in the wetland on his family’s farm.  Fascinated by this rare discovery, the young boy resolves to care for them.  He quickly learns this is no small feat.  The Showy Lady’s Slipper is a botanical marvel, requiring just the right growing conditions, and taking seven to fifteen years to flower.   With painstaking care, Joe hand-pollinates the fragile plants, thins out the brushwood to let in more sunlight, and fends off swarms of deer flies and mosquitoes.  A dedicated steward of the environment, Joe continues to cultivate his orchids and “they spread with the doggedness of time ticking through the decades.” Wallace’s delicate watercolour and pencil illustrations capture the exotic pink and white blossoms in their full glory.  The lush, detailed scenes showcase the natural beauty of the highlands of eastern Ontario throughout the seasons; from the sun-drenched hills in summer, to the snow-covered cedars in winter. Like the flowers he nurtured, Joe is characterized as a determined survivor.  His steely commitment to the orchids “stuck like nettles in Joe’s mind.”  An epilogue explores Joe Purdon’s lasting legacy, which includes a Conservation Area that preserves Canada’s largest colony of wild Showy Lady’s Slippers for the enjoyment and enrichment of future generations.  This story of one man’s efforts to make the world a better place is an inspiring choice for Earth Day discussions.

The Slippers’ Keeper

Ian Wallace
Groundwood Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-55498-414-5

Linda Ludke
Linda Ludke

Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library.  Her reviews have appeared in Quill and QuireSchool Library Journal and CM:  Canadian Review of Materials.  When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.

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