Loon Chase

ForeWord Magazine- September/October 2006

A paddle across a lake, time to watch rare birds on the water, a frantic attempt to stop a “bad moment” in the woods—through the pages of this delightful book, these events on a summer day are the recipe for a young person’s deepening relationship with nature.

This book tells the story of a child who spends a day on a northern lake with his or her mother, and Miles the dog. The unspecified gender of the narrator allows both girls and boys to empathize completely with the storyteller. Told in the first-person voice of the child, the story allows the reader to enter life on the lake. The combination of vibrant pastel illustrations and lively, direct language are wonderfully evocative; the audience hears Miles panting as he swims and sees the loons as they swim on the northern waters.

The central drama of the story revolves around Miles and his instincts to chase and catch the loons. Readers are drawn into the panic of the narrator as he/she attempts to stop his/her beloved dog from exercising natural instincts: in this case instincts that could harm the endangered and admired birds. The author places no blame while telling of a potentially fatal encounter between wild and domestic animals, and the resolution of the encounter will satisfy young readers and conservationists alike.

Diehl is an award-winning author and critic whose work has appeared in such journals and anthologies as the Indiana Review, Antietam Review, and Many Mountains Moving. The illustrator’s paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally and she has also done a number of large public commissions, including three story murals for the new public library in Jacksonville, Florida. Loon Chase is the first children’s book for both Diehl and Freeman.

Ideal for readers aged six to twelve, this book is both a personal adventure and an introduction to natural history. The protagonist not only saves the loons but also has his/her first moments alone with nature on the lake. Aspects of loon behavior are essential parts of the story; the appendix at the end of the book provides young readers, parents, and teachers with a host of facts about loons in nature and myth, and with fun activities that extend the lessons learned in the story.

A good story, reverence for and understanding of nature, and useful information on which to grow make this book a fine addition to any library. Text and pictures work beautifully together throughout the volume, and readers will continue to find new details in both as they return for many repeat readings.
- Vicki Hughes

School Library Journal- April 2006

In this tale, a boy and his mother set off on a canoe ride to Big Island with their bird dog swimming along beside them. When he spies a loon and two chicks nearby, his hunting instincts take over. The young narrator recounts with suspense the panicked attempts to stop the pup from reaching the endangered animals. The chase comes to an end when the big bird rises up, flaps its wings, and splashes its webbed feet, seeming to walk on the lake. Startled, Miles swims away. Freeman’s pastel illustrations provide a close-up portrait of the loon protecting the babies. Vivid descriptions incorporate facts in a readable manner. More science notes and an activity are provided in the end matter, along with a “Loons in Native American Culture” folklore overview, making this a useful title for classroom discussion.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada

Library Media Connection - November/December 2006

A young boy and his mother go paddling to Big Island to pick blueberries. His dog, Miles, jumps in the lake to swim along side the canoe. As they paddle across the lake, they see a mother loon and her two babies. While the boy and his mom pick blueberries, Miles, who loves to chase birds, swims after the loons. The excitement builds as they try to prevent Miles from getting at the birds. Wonderful pastel illustrations fill each page. The sentence structure is simple; readers will feel like they are listening to the 8-year-old tell the story. As he tells his tale, he also states some simple loon facts. He uses many similes to help describe the loons with great detail. 'Creative Minds: Loon Fun Facts' appear at the end of the book, which offer basic facts about loons with questions to answer and activities to do. 'Loons in Native American Culture' and 'Make a Loon Mask' are also presented in the last pages. This is a heart-warming tale where the biggest animal does not win. Recommended.
-Eileen Wright, Reference Librarian, Montana State University--Billings (Montana)

Horn Book Guide - Fall 2006

A canoe ride becomes an adventure when a boy and his mother try to save loon chicks from their hunting dog. They don’t reach the dog in time, but the parent loon is able to scare the dog away and protect its young…. Impressionistic illustrations do little more than create setting.


Talk about heart-stopping action. There are no cop chases, aerial dogfights or exploding starships in this book, but count on it to set your pulse racing. Heilprin Diehl creates the most panic-inducing plot imagineable to a young mind: two iddy biddy baby loon chicks in mortal peril from the family dog.

Bad doggie!

This page turner starts off nice and slow on a summer day when wild blueberries beckon on a shimmering New Hampshire lake. The boy narrator's out canoeing with Mom and a springer spaniel named Miles. But wait, where's Miles going? Why, he's obeying the dictates of nature, off chasing a family of endangered loons ... Gah!

Will their canoe catch up with him before it's too late? Can Mama loon defend her offspring?

Freeman's pastels remind me of an Orvis catalog, very northern outdoorsy with its heavy foliage and deep, earthy hues. I half expected the pages to smell faintly of wet leaves and pine needles.

Heartland Reviews - July 2006

Miles, the family dog jumps in the lake to follow Mother and Daughter in their canoe. He spies a small family of loons. Mom and daughter try to stop him, but he stubbornly swims toward two young loon chicks. Mom and daughter needn’t have worried because the male loon spreads his wings to appear bigger and splashes Miles until he escapes. Daughter paddles back later to see if the chicks are OK, and is also confronted by the male loon.  Children will learn how animal parents safeguard their children. In the back there are interesting facts about loons, Native American cultural tidbits, and a loon mask art project. We rated this interesting book four hearts.
- Bob Spear, Publisher and Chief Reviewer

Armchair Interviews - March 2007

This picture book tells the story of a young boy, his mother and their family dog, Miles.

They are all out on a canoeing trip in search of a spot to pick blueberries. Miles jumps in the water and swims alongside their canoe. They come upon an adult loon with its two babies. Miles swims ahead after seeing the birds in the water because he is curious.

I tossed the berries I had in my hand into the bucket. We jabbed our paddles onto the rocks to push off. We had to stop him. Miles was our family pet. He played ball, slept on a dog bed and ate out of a bowl, but when he saw a bird, something came over him. He had never been close to catching one in our yard. These loons were on the water though--and two of them were babies! (pg 6 of 32)

The story then explains how the other bird parent had returned to its family and when Miles got to close, the bird spread its large wings and danced on the water, creating a fierce demonstration for Miles. Miles returned to where his family was frantically paddling towards the confrontation.

Following the story is a section on fun facts on loons, loons in Native American culture, and craft instructions with sample pieces to use for the construction of a loon mask.

The Loon Chase story is enhanced by the detailed pastel renderings illustrated by Kathryn Freeman. This book serves as a combination of a picture book and a school textbook, a technique pioneered by Arbordale Publishing, who calls these books "For Creative Minds." This is an idea that will change teaching and students perceptions of learning.

Armchair Interview says: Arbordale has again provided an interesting story and wonderful added information at the end.
-Brenda A. Snodgrass

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - July 2007

Loon Chase is the story of summer morning canoeing on Big Island and the adventure that unexpectedly arises. A boy and his mother plan to pick blueberries but get sidetracked when their lively dog notices a loon and her chicks. The loon's protective concern for the chicks creates the suspense for the story. Nature lovers particularly will appreciate this story. The lovely illustrations with woodsy borders give this picture book a New England feel. A strength for this book is that it "grows" with children. Young children will enjoy the simple story. For the older child there are sections such as "Fun Facts" and "Loons in Native American Culture" as well as a pattern and instructions for making a loon mask. My quality-control group were attentive to the story and learned about loons too.
- Marla G. Nowak

Elementary teachers searching for quality fiction, that both teaches about wildlife and is curriculum-based, will love this book as much as the children reading it.
- Patsy Side

Gr 1-3 -In this tale, a boy and his mother set off on a canoe ride to Big Island with their bird dog swimming along beside them. When he spies a loon and two chicks nearby, his hunting instincts take over. The young narrator recounts with suspense the panicked attempts to stop the pup from reaching the endangered animals. The chase comes to an end when the big bird rises up, flaps its wings, and splashes its webbed feet, seeming to walk on the lake. Startled, Miles swims away. Freeman's pastel illustrations provide a close-up portrait of the loon protecting the babies. Vivid descriptions incorporate facts in a readable manner. More science notes

and an activity are provided in the end matter, along with a Loons in Native American Culture folklore overview, making this a useful title for classroom discussion.
- Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

Adventure abounds when a boy and his mother slip into a canoe and paddle on a smooth, shiny lake.  Their dog, Miles, swims beside them; they head for the berry bushes on nearby Big Island.  On the way, they spot a loon and its two chicks in the water.  When Miles heads off toward the loons, the boy and his mother think the worst.  Only a race against the water can save the babies.  But the parent loon calls upon instincts and thrashes out at Miles.  The dog slinks away from the loons.  Later, the boy and one of the loons meet face-to-face in a moment of stillness.  A special finish to the evening includes the calls and flight of a loon.  This first person account imparts lots of information in a close-up way.  The text is clear and includes lovely, descriptive phrases and the story flows in a peaceful manner.  Pastel illustrations fit the text well, and double spreads are highlighted with borders that enhance the format.  Readers get a bonus with supplemental pages.  They hold facts, questions, a map, math, and measure activities.  Information about loons in Native American culture and directions for making a loon mask are also included.  This book supports ideas regarding adaptations, behaviors, and habitats of animals.  Youngsters will read it again and again.
-Nancy Garhan Attebury

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

A boy and his mother are on a peaceful canoe ride with their faithful pet dog Miles swimming beside them, when the boy spots a loon with two chicks at the end of the lake. Seeing the loon is as exciting as seeing a shooting star, and the boy watches in fascination, silently giving thanks that his dog is too busy swimming on the other side of the canoe and has not seen them. When they reach Big Island, Mother holds the canoe steady while the boy stands and picks blueberries from the bushes by the shore. Neither notices that Miles has swum away until he is in the middle of the lake, headed right toward the loon family. Can they paddle hard and fast enough to head him off before he reaches the loons? What will happen if they cannot? This is a beautifully told and illustrated story demonstrating the wonders of nature and the universal instinct of all parents, human or animal, to protect their young at all costs. A five-page supplement which includes loon facts, websites, math and mapping exercises, information about Native American culture and loon folklore, as well as directions about making a loon mask, give this book great cross curricular tie-in potential. Both the author and illustrator are donating a portion of their royalties to the Loon Preservation Committee.
- Pat Trattles

The Concord Monitor - Feb 20 2006

Jean Heilprin Diehl, author of Loon Chase, and Kathryn Freeman, illustrator, are summer people with family connections to New Hampshire, that - in Diehl's case - go back to the 19th century. Diehl's family has long owned a cabin on Silver Lake, where she spent childhood summers; in the 1980s, she was a Concord Monitorreporter. Freeman learned to use pastels from her uncle, landscape artist Robert Jordan, with whom, as a child, she often went canoeing on Conway Lake. The women still summer on these lakes with their families. And together they have created a picture book that catches the essence of place and season.

Inspired by Diehl's springer spaniel, Miles, Loon Chase opens with a mother and daughter in a canoe, paddling to Big Island to pick blueberries. "Our dog, Miles, leaped off the dock to swim with us. His nose puffed just above the water: pfuh-huh, pfuh-huh - pfuh-huh."

Blueberries, canoe, water, dog -ahhh, New Hampshire summer. And to complete the picture: loons.

At first Miles is too busy swimming to bother with the adult and two chicks, but: At Big Island, I stood in the canoe picking berries while Mom held the boat steady. Now we were busy, so we didn't notice when Miles stopped sniffing around in the bushes and swam away.

Sound carries a long way over water. Before we saw Miles we heard, "Pfuh-huh - pfuh-huh, pfuh-huh - pfuh-huh." The sun bounced so brightly off the lake that we had to squint to see him, out in the middle, his black head pointed straight toward three tiny specks - the loons.

At this point the story becomes a race, mother and daughter paddling fast as they can to intercept Miles before he munches one of those rare loon chicks. Dogs will be dogs!

Miles, a powerful swimmer, outmaneuvers and outstrips the canoe. He's going right for those loon chicks. Observers of loons probably know what happens next. A contest between springer spaniel and loon in the water is no contest at all. The big loon rose up in the water. It flapped its wings and splashed its webbed feet as though it were walking on the lake. Below, down in the water, the dog's head looked very small. The bird spread its huge wings between Miles and the babies. Its feet began to dance, faster and faster. Water flashed up in the sun and foamed white, like a fountain in the middle of the lake.

Whoosh - Miles lunged at the loon. The water splashed up ever higher. What was happening?
Miles was turning back.
Of course he was.

Later, the girl takes the canoe out on her own to make sure the chicks are all right. This is when the story takes a wondrous but believable turn. Loons know. They are knowing creatures. This one seems to recognize the girl and her canoe from the earlier fracas.

A few inches from the canoe, it came up again. I heard nothing. It just appeared. It was so close to me that I could have reached out and touched it.

The loon looked at me with its hard red eye and did not move. Had it come up in this spot on purpose, or was the loon as surprised as I was?

We stared at each other, for what felt like several minutes. Then, just as silently as it had arrived, the bird again dove and was gone.

Kathryn Freeman's richly textured illustrations immerse readers in the colors of summer on the water. She zooms in on the daunting red eye in the velvet black head of the loon, truly one of the world's most beautiful birds. And the look in the dog's eyes as he escapes a parent's wrath speaks volumes. Or at least a long sentence. Something like: That's one ferocious bird, and, as embarrassing as it is having chased her halfway across the lake, I'm making a fast getaway, and I sure hope she's not chasing me.

The book includes five pages of loon facts and activities. A pattern for making a loon mask modeled after an authentic Yup'ik (Eskimo) mask is included or can be downloaded from the publisher's website. While you're visiting, click on Loon Chase and hear loon calls -"those weird loon voices . . . like sad laughter."

Loon Chase is a warm, funny, exciting story - an open-hearted story that will hold the interest of children and charm adults. In fact, Loon Chase is for New Hampshire what the classic Blueberries for Sal is for Maine: a look at the delights of summer through the wondering eyes of a child.
- Rebecca Rule

National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, SDSU

This is a lovely book about a mother and son's canoe ride on a lake; the complication arises when their water-loving dog Miles plunges into the water alongside them but is soon distracted by a family of loons. Uh-oh. Will the idyllic day be spoiled by their dog devouring loon chicks? Of course not, but in the process of retrieving their dog, the boy has one of those magical moments: he and the adult loon stare at each other for several silent moments. Later, back on shore, mother and son watch shooting stars and listen to the loons. Young readers will find the story both exciting and soothing; older readers will recognize a story that quietly celebrates those special family moments when parent and child are focused on sharing time together. In addition, the book includes information about loons and instructions for making a loon mask. Kathyrn Freeman's fine illustrations are soft and inviting pastels in blues and greens.
- A. Allison

Children's Book Reviews

Will the baby loon chicks be safe from Miles the pet spaniel whose nature it is to swim after water birds? A young boy and his mother paddle their canoe hard across the lake to see if they or Miles will reach the chicks first. Who will?

This dramatic story introduces young readers to loons, a water bird found in North America. The pastel paintings by Kathryn Freeman have a luscious quality with many perspectives, which well illustrate the text by Jean Heilprin Diehl. Ms. Diehl shows the reader the characteristics of the dog and birds as well as of caring humans. The information and activities at the end are a must at home and in the classroom. This book is highly recommended for children ages 4-8.
Judith Nasse

Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch)

Loon Chase is a children's picturebook about a boy and his mother who go on a peaceful canoe outing with their dog. They hear loon cries, observe a magnificent loon family, and even see wild loons take flight. The warm, naturalistic illustrations and the contemplative text form a story about respect and wonderment for nature's creatures; the narrative is just complex enough to be appropriate for children almost ready to make the transition from picturebooks to easy reader chapter books. A Creative Minds: Loon Fun Facts section at the end offers both amazing facts and fun to-do projects about loons. Highly recommended for young nature and bird lovers.
- Diane Donovan, Editor & Senior Reviewer - summer 2006

Loon Chase shares the moment of wonder when a young boy's peaceful canoe ride turns frantic as he?discovers that his domesticated dog still?has powerful instincts similar to animals?in the wild. It is also about the surprising outcome of the encounter between the dog and a loon protecting chicks: ?the bigger animal doesn't necessarily prevail. The super + pastel illustrations evoke feelings of being on the lake. The Creative Mind section has teaching trivia, crafts and games related to loons, their migration patterns and efforts to protect this species. Written by Jean Heilprin Diehl, Illustrated by Kathryn Freeman. Ages 6-10.

Book Talk

A young boy and his mother discover that their pet dog Miles, is indeed a dog with animal instincts. Miles loves to swim and he joins them by swimming along side of the canoe as they enjoy a summer morning on the lake. At the end of the lake a loon and her two chicks are also enjoying a morning swim.

Mother and son become anxious as they see Miles swim straight for the birds. Miles is a gentle family pet but something comes over him when he sees birds. Knowing that loons are an endangered species, they paddle as fast as they can to keep Miles from harming them. Mother and son paddle frantically to capture Miles before he reaches the birds.

There was no reason for the human mother to worry about the baby looms, as Miles draws near, the mother loon rises up to protect her babies. The mother loon spread its huge wings between Miles and the babies. Miles was frightened and turned back. Miles had animal instinct but the universal instinct of a mother to protect her young was stronger.

After enjoying the story with your child don't forget to check-out the back of the book for the "Creative Minds" section. There you are reminded to check and click on "Loon Chase" to hear actual loon calls. These pages contain lots of fun facts about loons and their habits. Loons in Native American Culture, is another page filled with information. A pattern and instructions how to make a loon mask is on the final pages of this unique book.
- Shirley Labusier

Times Argus - Mar 27, 2006

A young boy and his mother set out in their canoe early one summer morning. They are paddling to Big Island to pick blueberries, and their dog, Miles, leaps off the dock to swim along with them. In the distance, the boy and his mother see a loon and two loon chicks swimming. They hope that Miles, a bird dog, won't see the loons. If he does, his instinct will be to chase them down.

The three reach the island, away from the loons, but while the boy and his mother pick berries, Miles tires of exploring the island. Suddenly, he swims off, heading directly for the loons. The boy and his mother chase after him, hoping to reach Miles in time and save the loons. Just when they think they will fail, something amazing happens.

An exciting fictional story steeped in fact, this selection provides loads of information about animal instincts. As an added bonus, the publisher provides a five-page educational supplement, "For Creative Minds," to further creativity and understanding.
- Kendal Rautzhan

Washington Post - May 14, 2006

Jean Heilprin Diehl's Loon Chase conjures up a traditional New Hampshire summer. "Early one morning, before breakfast, Mom and I paddled to Big Island to pick blueberries. Our dog, Miles, leaped off the dock to swim with us." All is idyllic until Miles spots "three tiny specks" in the middle of the bright lake -- a loon and two chicks -- and is after them, too fast to be stopped. But to the anxious young narrator's surprise, the adult loon proves more than a match for Miles. Kathryn Freeman's pastel illustrations are all sun and shadow, deftly switching perspective from boat to dog to birds and back. Especially nice is the one of the oblivious chicks afloat on shimmering blue-green water. Useful loon facts are appended. 
- Elizabeth Ward


A boy and his mother set out in a canoe early one morning, accompanied by their water-loving dog. All is peaceful until they spot a loon with two babies swimming further up the lake. The boy knows that his dog loves to try to catch birds, and knows that he and his mother must somehow protect the loon family. In "Loon Chase", author Jean Heilprin Diehl and artist Kathryn Freeman detail the rescue mission, and the boy's surprising encounter with one of the loons. The book concludes with a section of "loon fun facts" and directions for making a loon mask. (Ages 4-8).

BookLoons Reviews - August 2007

Loon Chase encourages kids' sensitivity to the natural world. It begins as a boy and his mother paddle their canoe one summer morning 'to Big Island to pick blueberries.' Their bird dog Miles swims alongside.

The boy is excited when they spot a loon swimming with two chicks. As they pick berries on the island, Miles swims off on his own - when they look for him, they see him heading towards the loons! They paddle in pursuit, anxious to save the mother and her babies, but it looks like they won't make it in time. 'Then something amazing happened ...'

Wonder what it was? You'll just have to read Loon Chase and find out for yourself. The volume of explanatory text is unusual for a picture book. Also, educationsl sections are included at the back - Loon Fun Facts, Loons in Native American Culture, and instructions to Make a Loon Mask.

The Otter and the Hawk - Summer 2007

A leisurely summer morning canoe ride to an island for blueberry picking, beautifully accentuated by lovely pastls, brings monther, son, and favorite four-legged friend, Milo, to Big Island and an unexpected adventure.

Glide through the fully illustrated pages with easy-on-the-eyes white text as Diehl and Freeman portray the age-old instingtive habit of parents protecting their young. Milo, a usually very well mannered pet, shows some curious, if not aggressive behavior, as the canoeists come upon the nest of a loon with two young chicks. Preoccupied by blueberry picking and balancing the canoe, Milo's continued swim across the pond goes unnoticed until it's almost too late. The paddlers hustle to reach their bird dog before he can do any mischief to the loon's chicks. Not quite quick enough, mother and son watch in wonder from the canoe as the loon faces the intruder. It is truly amazing what animals do to protect their babies. All works out well in the end with several lessons learned by all.

Included at the end of the book are a variety of interesting scientific facts about loons and their habitats as well as how they were depicted in Native American Legends and songs. For the creative hand there are instuctions for making a loon mask. A web site to visit for even mor eprojects and information is also given.

Loon Chase, written by Jean Heilprin Diehl and illustrated by Kathryn Freeman, is now neatly wrapped up with other items from the Audobon Gift Shop and in a birthday box on its way to my grandon's hom.  Not to worry, there are other copies in the Gift Shop at the Center. The selection is perfect for a classroom library as well as for gift giving. Most of the books I review for Otter hawk end up in my shopping bag. Sigh!
- Janet Nickson, Stweardship Board of Audobon Sharon