HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 2, No. 1, Winter 1983

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 2 No. 1, Winter 1983

Book Reviews

The Last Algonquin, by Theodore L. Kazimiroff
Reviewed by Tom Brown Jr.

I was given this book by one of my Standard Classes, then set it aside to read later, much later. My "to read" books fill a rather good size bookshelf! Somehow, the book found its way with me on a long trip, and with nothing else to read, I began to read it. I can say now that I'm sorry I did, mainly because I couldn't put it down nor would I do anything else that day but finish that book.
I now have placed this book on my "favorite book" shelf, next to Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, and a host of other classics. That book touched me deeply, as only a few other books have, bringing me to tears in the last chapter. I guess that the old Indian in the book and the little boy reminded me too much of Stalking Wolf and myself.
I have been so moved by this book that I am going to carry it in the bookstore and in the newsletter. Drop everything you're doing - work, other reading, playing, everything - and read this book. It will be one you will never forget.

Newcombs Wildflower Guide
Reviewed by David Winston

The bounty of our Mother Earth is truly generous. Edible, useful and medicinal plants are found in a great profusion. Their availability could in many cases insure against starvation, prevent or possibly cure illness, and even provide us with materials for dying cloth, making rope, useful insect repellents and much, much more. There is only one problem: The proper use of any plant (especially any you intend to ingest!) is dependent upon proper identification. Every year grim newspaper stories tell of unfortunate and uninformed individuals who mistake Foxglove for Comfrey, Water Hemlock for Wild Carrot, or Death Camas for Wild Onion. These incidents need not occur. You do not have to be a botanist or a herbalist to correctly identify a plant. All it takes is the proper caution, a good field guide, and the patience to distinguish the often small differences that clearly identify each and very plant.
Over the years, literally hundreds of wildflower and edible plant field guides have been published. Most of these are useful, but often they are handicapped due to built-in limitations. A good example of this would be one of the most popular wildflower guides, Peterson's Field Guide. In this book, identification is based on the use of the plant's flower, both color and structure. While the system is very simple to use, if the plant you wish to identify is not flowering, it makes certain identification difficult, if not impossible. Botanical keys, such as Grays or Britton & Brown, are excellent for precise identification, but their large size, weight and complex botanical language combine to make their use a problem for most.
Luckily, there is now a field guide that combines the best of Peterson's (it is simple to use and compact) and at the same time, the best of the botanical keys (it makes precise identification possible, regardless of the plant's growth stage). This book is Newcomb's Wildflower Guide - by Lawrence Newcomb, published by Little, Brown & Company (Hardcover, 490 pg., $12.95).

In my fourteen years of gathering edible and medicinal plants, I have used just about every imaginable field guide and it is my opinion that Newcomb's is clearly the best. But this is not a true test, so I gave my copy to over a dozen novice herb gatherers. After a brief explanation on the use of a key, each team of two was given a plant to identify, some flowering, other going to seed and still others with just green growth. In 80% of our trials, precise identification was made within 20 minutes and the remaining 20%, with a few subtle hints, managed to correctly identify their plants. The most amazing thing was that every single student felt comfortable using the key in such a brief time. Comments on the book were unanimously positive. The clear line drawings, the easy-to-use, 5-step key, the simple and succinct language combined to provide the book's users with an exciting, confusion-free experience. We all readily recommend Newcomb's as an essential book for all outdoor enthusiasts who would like to become better acquainted with our green brothers and sisters.

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