A year in the life of a raccoon, particularly a female, is challenging and then there are the kits one must raise and teach to survive before winter comes and the cycle starts again. Calamity Jane is the final book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series, focusing on the year in the life of a raccoon introduced in Looney Coon yet in a different style than the rest of the series.
Campbell begins Jane’s story with her emerges from a several weeks long nap in mid-February to get out and about, eat some, and meet other raccoons especially one big male in particular. The book then shifts into spring as Jane reemerges on the hunt for food as quickly and as much as possible before having to feed her four kits. Taking up most of the book, the spring is when young kits are in the most danger first because they rely on their mother and then when they’re eyes open they begin exploring much to their mother’s fear in some cases. Eventually Eno, one of Jane’s kits, begins living with a nearby farmer and his family after a misadventure but later reconnects with his mother and siblings. The most shocking turn of events is the apparent death of Jane when hunters enter the Wildlife Refuge she lives in and attack her, though by then she had weened her kits off of needed her and able to survive on their own. But later that fall, Jane returns after proving harder to killer than the hunters expected to the joy of the farming family. The book ends back in the winter with Eno not comfortable his human family’s sleeping habits and heading back to his old home to get some much needed sleep with his siblings and mother.
Like Sweet Sue’s Adventures before it, Calamity Jane is written differently than other books in the series. Focusing on Jane and her kits, the book follows them in a style meant for young readers. With the addition of over 50 photographs, this book is definitely for young readers than readers for all ages. Given that Sam Campbell passed away the same year as this book was previously published, one wonders if his health changed the way he wrote the last two books of this series though interesting information for nature’s citizens isn’t diminished.
Calamity Jane like its predecessor is a children’s book to get them interested in nature and giving them a wonderful introduction to Sam Campbell’s writing so they can be interested in the other books in the Living Forest series.