Four Seasons of Rusty-Belly: Ode to the Seasons and the Birds of Boundary Bay

16 November 2023

The Four Seasons of Rusty-Belly: Ode to the Seasons and the Birds of Boundary Bay
by Danielle S. Marcotte, Illustrations by Francesca Da Sacco
Published by Éditions de la Nouvelle Plume
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.95 ISBN 9-782925-329046

I am très pleased that The Four Seasons of Rusty-Belly: Ode to the Seasons and the Birds of Boundary Bay flew into my hands for review. Apart from the important facts that this geographically-specific children’s book is bilingual, well-written, and educational, I am perhaps especially pleased that it was illustrated by a real, living and breathing artist, not by Artificial Intelligence. It really does make all the difference; too often, of late, I’ve noticed that many writers and publishers are opting to use featureless, clichéd, computer-generated images in their children’s books, rather than investing in human talent.

Tsawwassen, BC author and former Radio-Canada host Danielle S. Marcotte has been publishing books since 2014—nineteen titles—and if The Four Seasons of Rusty-Belly is indicative of her talent, I need to get my hands on more of her stories. As indicated by its title, this is a seasonal story set in BC’s Boundary Bay Park, which is “located on a major [bird] migration route,” the Pacific Flyway. Each year the park’s “visited by 1.5 million birds from twenty different countries spread over three continents,” Marcotte explains in the “Did you know” page. I’ve been to Boundary Bay; it certainly is a phenomenon.

The story begins in spring, and it’s a playful celebration of nature herself: the soaring falcon, the robin who “sings breathlessly,” the bees who “daub their stomachs with pollen”. I appreciate the personification here. When summer arrives, humans visit Tsawwassen Beach, and “big sister imitates the whales” by floating on her back in the sea and spouting seawater while a child and his/her “beautiful and serene” mother in a billowing sunhat looks on from the shallows.

Fall brings pumpkins and “Dead leaves, without a care in the world,” and “Quiet spirits roam from the ancient rubble, guardian spirits of the First Nations who once lived here in freedom”. In “the cold rain of winter,” the child narrator “bring[s] Grandpa to the playground” and he’s significantly wearing his “favourite” rusty-orange sweater. The colour ties in with the titular “Rusty-belly” … you’ll have to read the book to find out which bird species this name refers to, and what other beloved things feature a “lovely rusty belly” in this softly poetic story.

The book’s dedicated to Francesca Da Sacco, “a great artist from a great country!” and the gifted Italian illustrator of this very book. Her watercolour images of herons backdropped by the thematically-coloured rusty trees is my favourite. Da Sacco does a commendable job of creating illustrations that will delight both children and adults. For extra fun, readers are invited to match the various birds in the story with the bird images that appear at the end of the book, and to create a simple bird feeder from a milk carton (instructions given).

Bunnies doing “silly stunts,” views of snow-capped mountains, a wind-surfer catching air … this is the Boundary Bay I know. Add the art, the activities and migration information and voilàLes quatre saisons de Rousse-Bedaine est charmant!


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