October 08, 2019

Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild

Based on the song of The Wardens
Illustrated by Lia Golemba
Red Barn Books
978-1-9991087-0-0
24 pp.
Ages 4+
August 2019 

Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild is an Albertan labour of love. Red Barn Books is a new publisher out of Carstairs, The Wardens are based in Banff, and illustrator Lia Golemba hails from Airdrie. It's not surprising that the picture book has a regional flavour of the mountains and the West, though outdoor lovers everywhere will be intrigued by the story, and the artwork and cowboy fans will be charmed.
From Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild, based on the song of The Wardens, illus. by Lia Golemba
Based on the song "Government Cowboy," The Wardens, a trio of musician-wardens Scott Ward, Bradley Bischoff and Ray Schmidt, recount in ballad storytelling the life of national park wardens. From preparing their horses to helping with search-and-rescues and monitoring wildlife and the natural wonders of our mountain parks, these Rocky Mountain Rangers tell of the complexity and affection they have for their vocation. Though the story's text, a version of The Wardens's song, is explicit in colourful details of their daily activities, the story is appended with a description of the nature of their jobs, a list of expressions used, a picture glossary of mountain flora and fauna, and a map of the parks of the Canadian Rockies. Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild is a complete package of narrative and learning.

From Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild, based on the song of The Wardens, illus. by Lia Golemba
The artwork of Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild by illustrator Lia Golemba exemplifies the ruggedness of the song and terrain, blending earthy colours and strong lines and shapes, with textures of wood grain and twisted rope across many double-spreads. Based on her lino block prints which are then digitally remastered, Lia Golemba instills the story with another layer of organic storytelling. I love the choice of colours and the integration of cragginess with softness, mirroring the hard and dangerous work with the affection the cowboys have for their endeavours.

While some may see Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild as a regional story depicting a landscape of and a pursuit embedded in the Rockies, it is more than that. It's a Canadian story of a land to be guarded by those who understand its heartbeat so that it may be sustained for all who live on it and those fortunate to visit.

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