Book Review: ‘Genius of the Swamp’ and ‘Polly Gone’ delight

For the Recorder
Published: 11/25/2022 2:27:16 PM
Modified: 11/25/2022 2:27:06 PM
“Genius of the Swamp” by Dale MonetteHaley’s, 120 pages

Haley’s Publishing in Athol has cemented its commitment to local authors and the local environment with two different but complementary books published this fall.

“Genius of the Swamp,” by naturalist and photographer Dale Monette, explores the life, the habitat, and the wildlife neighbors of the great blue heron. Monette’s stunning color photographs capture herons as they mate, preen in the sun, build nests, feed their young, get into occasional fights, and capture and consume their food.

Monette, who lives in New Salem, notes early in the book that he worked on these images for months between 2020 and 2022. He clearly spends hours and hours at a time lurking near (but not too near!) the birds and animals he photographs, taking photograph after photograph in search of the perfect image.

In this book he has succeeded in that quest. He depicts graceful creatures that know their habitat and mate for life. When he moves on to show other swamp creatures, he is 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 in fact an important ecological partner for the herons.

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

“Polly Gone” by Sylvia WetherbyHaley’s, 34 pages

“Polly Gone,” by Sylvia Wetherby of Wendell, views nature from a different lens — or rather not a lens at all but an artist’s palette. A work of fiction for children, it follows the efforts of Percival Porcupine as he helps his friend Tabitha Turtle look for her missing friend, Polly Wog, at the end of a long winter.

Adults who have observed the lifespans of tadpoles will know exactly where Polly went, or rather what she became, but children may not. In any case, the story is charming.

Percival and Tabitha talk to a variety of animals in their search. Along the way the book provides information about the lives and habits of different species.

According to the publisher, the author created the character of Percival in graduate 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 should endear this book to families.

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

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

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

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


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