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Wayne State University Press

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A Beaver Tale

The Castors of Conners Creek

Written and Illustrated by Gerald Wykes

Award Winner

Detroit, Ecology, Michigan, Young Readers

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: March 2016
ISBN: 9780814341810
Pages: 56 Size: 9.5x9.5
Illustrations: 30
Published: April 2016
ISBN: 9780814341827
Book Images

When Detroit was settled over three hundred years ago, beavers (then known by the French name "castors") were one of the most numerous and important animals in North America. Yet the aggressive beaver pelt trade in Detroit and elsewhere decimated the animal’s population, and the region’s remaining beavers were unable to reestablish their homes in the city’s industrial landscape once the trapping ended. In A Beaver Tale: The Castors of Conners Creek, author and illustrator Gerald Wykes tells the incredible story of one beaver family’s return to the Detroit River in 2008, more than one hundred years after beavers were last seen in the area.

Wykes shows readers how the beavers were discovered at the Conners Creek Power Plant on the city’s east side, after people noticed trees were being mysteriously cut down. He combines real observations of this pioneering beaver colony with background about the important history of the beaver in Michigan, from its relationship to the Native occupants of the Great Lakes to its "discovery" by Europeans as a source of valuable furs. He explores some of the beaver’s unique physical features, including its impressively webbed hind feet, delicate fingered "hands," waterproof fur, and famous flat tail, and also explains how today’s strict pollution laws and shoreline improvements have turned the Detroit River into a hospitable place for beavers once again.

Wykes’s full-color illustrations and kid-friendly text tell a serious tale of environmental recovery in a fun and accessible way. Young readers aged 8 to 12 will enjoy the unique natural and cultural history in A Beaver Tale.

Gerald Wykes is a retired museum and nature center director and freelance author, illustrator, and presenter. His 2014 Michigan History Magazine article "A Weed Goes to War" was honored as the "Best Article of the year" by the Michigan Historical Society. He also occasionally steps out from behind the computer and drawing board as the French Canadian storyteller and voyageur Alexander Boyer.

Who says history can’t come alive? A Beaver Tale shows the power of nature and history coming together to bring back an essential part of what was once thought only to be in Detroit’s past. This engaging book is a wonderful opportunity for kids to connect with their heritage in a unique and relevant way.

– David Hales, Social Studies Consultant, Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency

A Beaver Tale is an accurate account of the surprising reappearance of beavers in Detroit after 150 years. Gerry Wykes’s artistic talent brings the beavers to life with engaging illustrations and the beaver facts will help us all to become beaver experts. As Gerry says at the end of the book, ‘Let’s hear it for the beavers!’

– Roberta Urbani, retired DTE Energy environmental planner and 2013 Detroit Free Press Michigan Green Leader

A Beaver Tale: The Castors of Conners Creek is a children's picturebook about the amazing, true-life reappearance of
beavers in Detroit after 150 years. Realistic color artwork (including industrious adult beavers and adorable baby
beavers) brings to life the story of how beavers reappeared at the Conner Creek Power Plant on the city's east side,
cutting down trees, building dams and raising families.

– Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

In his new children’s book titled A Beaver Tale: The Castors of Conners Creek, Gerald Wykes has freshly told the amazing story of the return of beavers to the Detroit River. Through compelling narrative and lively illustrations, A Beaver Tale will teach children about the cleanup and recovery of the Detroit River and do it in a fashion where they may even realize that if the Detroit River is cleaner for beaver, it is cleaner for each of us because we live in the same ecosystem.

– John Hartig, refuge manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

A Beaver Tale is a celebration of environmental recovery that will help young readers understand that the Lakes remain a healthy home for humans and their beaver neighbors.

– Jacqueline A. Justice, PhD, Inland Seas

  • 2016 Foreword INDIES Book Award - Result: 2016 Honorable Mention for Juvenile Fiction
  • 2016 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Winner in both the Illustration – Graphic and the Children’s Nonfiction categories
  • 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the Children's/Juvenile Non-Fiction category