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Plant book finally blossoms

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (June 28/04) - Nunavut is a land without trees, which is why plant life in the spring and summer stands out so much during its brief appearance.

At this time of year, the snow is gone and colourful flowers are spreading across the landscape like wildfire -- perfect timing for the release of a new book called "Common Plants of Nunavut," by Carolyn Mallory and Susan Aiken.

"Judging by the number of people who have asked me where they can buy a copy, I would say the book is going to do great," said Mallory, who has dedicated most of her time over the last two-and-a-half years to documenting just about every plant in Nunavut.

The book was launched to much fanfare at Aqsarniit Ilinnarvik middle school in Iqaluit on June 10.

Gwen Coffin, of the Teaching and Learning Centre at the Nunavut Department of Education, told a gathering of teachers, students and media that she was thrilled to finally see the finished product.

She said writing a book such as this one, which will be used as a textbook in schools, is like "having a child." She said you wonder when looking at it: "How can something so small be so much work?"

Mallory, who moved to Iqaluit in 1999 with her husband and three children, said she felt "delighted" with the public reaction, but admitted to feeling very nervous about speaking in public.

Mallory's strength is her photography -- most of the plant photographs in the book are credited to her -- and exhaustive research.

Notably, every step of the way in the creation of the book, Inuit were consulted on what the traditional uses for each plant are and their traditional names.

The result is a readable, easy to follow guide that teachers are already raving about in Iqaluit.

"We got it two weeks ago," said Paul Meggs, a Grade 7 teacher at Aqsarniit. "We love it. It's great. It's meaningful and it's relevant," he said, adding "it's hard to find books on flowers."

Phyllis Brown, a classroom assistant in Meggs' class, said she thinks the book is "excellent" and pointed to the projects on plants the students have already completed and plastered all over the walls of the school.

After Mallory spoke, the Aqsarniit Choir sang traditional songs and a couple of students showed off their throat singing skills.

The book was made possible with support from the Nunavut Department of Education, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Copies of the book are available from any of those departments.