The Recorder – Book Review: Delight ‘Genius of the Swamp’ and ‘Polly Gone’

Published: 11/25/2022 14:27:16

Modified: 2022-11-25 14:27:06

“Genius of the Swamp” by Dale MonetteHaley, 120 pages

Haley’s Publishing in Athol has cemented its commitment to local authors and communities with two distinct but complementary books released this autumn.

Naturalist and photographer Dale Monette’s “Genius of the Swamp” explores the life, habitat and wild neighbors of the gray heron. Monette’s stunning color photographs capture herons as they mate, preen in the sun, build nests, feed their young, occasionally engage in fights, and catch and consume their food.

Monette, who lives in New Salem, notes at the beginning of the book that he worked on these images for months between 2020 and 2022. He clearly spends hours and hours lurking near (but not too close!) the birds and animals he is photographing, taking picture after picture in search of the perfect shot.

In this book he has succeeded in this search. He shows graceful creatures that know their habitat and are partners for life. When he goes on to show other swamp creatures, he’s just as meticulous. The “neighbors” he photographs include other colorful birds, black bears, moose, voles, coyotes, bobcats, and beavers.

The author explains that the beavers are indeed an important ecological partner for the herons.

Anyone with an interest in nature or a passion for photography will appreciate this book. To top it off, Monette says, “I even took all the mosquito and blackfly bites so you don’t have to.”

“Polly Gone” by Sylvia WetherbyHaley, 34 pages

Sylvia Wetherby von Wendell’s Polly Gone looks at nature through a different lens – or rather, not from a lens at all, but from an artist’s palette. A fictional work for children, it follows the endeavors of Percival Porcupine as he helps his friend Tabitha Turtle search for her missing friend Polly Wog at the end of a long winter.

Adults who have observed the lifespan of tadpoles will know exactly where Polly went, or rather what became of her, but children might not. Either way, the story is charming.

Percival and Tabitha speak to a variety of animals during their quest. The book also provides information about the life and habits of different species.

According to the publisher, the author created the character of Percival in grad school and hopes to share more of his adventures with readers in the future. Her sense of whimsy, knowledge of nature, and gift for illustrating her work with colorful, relatable art would make this book a family favorite.

Genius of the Swamp is available at the New Salem General Store, Petersham Country Store, Toadstool Bookshops in New Hampshire and Haley’s in Athol.

Author Dale Monette will also be selling prints and books at the Warwick Craft Fair on November 26, the Shutesbury Athletic Club Craft Fair on December 3-5 and the Wendell Craft Fair on December 9-10.

Polly Gone is available at New the Salem General Store, Trail Head in Orange, Haley’s in Athol, online retailers and

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her latest book is Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking. Visit their website.