That Castor canadensis 'made America' sounds like hyperbole, but in her book Ms. Philip...finds a shrewd angle that I think justifies her claim ... Beaverland is more than a natural history of the species. It is also in parts a memoir, a local and national history, and a sort of quest narrative that begins with Ms. Philip’s fascination with the beavers maintaining several dams and a pond near her home. Her most compelling guides along the way are those who challenge her own sensibilities—Mr. Sobanski and fur buyer Harlen Lien—and who are each portrayed with nuance and empathy ... Beaverland itself is as full of charm and wonder as its beguiling protagonist. The book’s ultimate—and unanswered—question is whether this continent’s two engineering species can coexist with each other. For its own good, the one with the excavators had better learn (like Dorothy Richards) how to share its space.
The world she introduces to the reader is fascinating, both on scientific and historical levels. Biologically speaking, beavers should be fairly dim based on their brain-to-body ratio, but their teamwork and focus, as well as knack for engineering, suggest otherwise ... This lyrical exploration is a portal for readers to enter into the mysteries of that world themselves.
Philip traces [the] history ... All of this is inspiring, even if I wished Philip had said more about some of the possible complications in getting the balance right — between welcoming industrious beavers and keeping some of their more invasive activities in check. But she admits that part of what spurred this book was something more immediate.
Philip reflects on the beaver’s significance in American history as she meets with memorable people invested in their futures. Philip successfully distills the many complex worlds that beavers inhabit into both a compelling wildlife portrait and ethnography. She interrogates these different worlds with humor and compassion. The book balances storytelling, history, and science in an accessible way that will appeal widely to fans of history and ecology. It is effectively grounded in Indigenous wisdom and infused with curiosity and a personal narrative that will help readers gain a new respect for these dynamic creatures ... Fascinating and unexpected.
An enthralling history ... Philip’s vivid narrative is enriched by Native American legend...entertaining accounts of beaver devotees....and sharp prose ... The result is a triumph of popular nature writing.