Secrets of the Loon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Chuck Dayton (9781681341583)
On the edge of a quiet lake, an egg hatches with pecks and wiggles. Out comes Moon Loon, who learns quickly that she can float in the water. Her parents feed her minnows and crayfish, then Mama takes her baby birds onto her back to protect them from predators. As days pass, the chicks grow too large for a parent’s back and stay in the water. When an eagle flies nearby, Moon realizes that she can dive down underwater to escape. Humans come too close and Moon’s parents move to defend her, but the humans move away. Soon it is time to practice flying. When Moon can fly, her parents leave. But once autumn comes, Moon knows just what to do and heads south.
Salas’s poetry rhymes with a lovely effortlessness that keeps the focus on the loons. She beautifully describes the loon’s habitat in just a few words, sharing details of the loon’s growth process and how they evade predators. The fascinating nature of their first migration is detailed further in the author’s note that offers more loon secrets as well as selected resources.
Dayton’s photography is done in a fascinating way. His clear and brilliant photos layer together to form forests, lakes, trees, reeds and more. Done through cleverly cut edges, the images form a complete picture of the loons and their lives.
A poetic glimpse of the Minnesota State Bird and its northern habitat. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter (9781536201536)
This gorgeous picture book introduces the art and skill of building a wren nest. Told in a folktale style, the book follows a Wren building her nest in a tree. Papa wren brings sticks, then twine, pine needles and small roots are added. A spider sac will help with keeping the mites eaten and a snakeskin wards off predators. Soft moss is gathered from the shade as well as feathers, petals and thread to make a soft bed. In this beautiful nest, eggs are laid and soon hatch, emerge onto branches, and fly away.
Sonenshine’s writing is exquisite. She focuses on the elements of the nest, lingering on beautiful language like “velvety moss” and “a scaly and thin reptilian charm” and “snippets of twine, spidery rootlets, and needles of pine.” This rich language is presented lightly on wren wings as they hurry back and forth creating their work of art and home.
Hunter’s illustrations are done on a rosy warm background that echoes the richness of the language. Done in fine lines and lots of detail, readers can pore over the illustrations to see the twine, needles, feathers and more. Hunter makes sure to take readers in nice and close, allowing them to peep at the eggs safe in the nest
A great readaloud pick, this book is a celebration of birds, nests and nature. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Don’t Feed the Coos! by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox (9781250303189)
The team behind Llama Destroys the World return with a book that’s for the birds. The book cleverly begins with the tone of Give a Mouse a Cookie but quickly turns it into a cautionary tale about feeding “coos” or pigeons. If you do feed one coo, more will come. You may try to escape, but they will follow you all the way home. No matter what you do, they will still stay with you. And because you have fed the coos, they will make coo poos. Everywhere. You will try everything to get rid of them and nothing will work. So you will accept your fate and make them part of the family. Until one day, you return with them to the park…
There is something so just right about the style of Stutzman’s writing. His tongue-in-cheek is clear but he also clearly cares about writing a superb picture book for children at the same time. That balance is not an easy one to create and sustain. Here, he pays homage to a favorite picture book style, yet also plays with it enough to break it just enough to make it fresh and interesting again.
Fox’s illustrations are bold and graphic. They use white space strategically, playing up the humor of an existence filled with pigeons and how that will change everything. The coos are adorable, until the pooing starts.
A clever and funny delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt & Co.
Freedom Bird by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by James H. Ransome (9780689871672)
John and Millicent were slaves on a plantation in the south. The siblings’ parents were sold away from them, never to be seen again. But before they left, they made sure that their children knew about freedom, hoping that it would come in time for them. The two worked hard labor on the plantation from dawn to night. One day, a great black bird flew over the field only to be shot down and left for dead. The two children head out after dark to see if the bird survived and rescue it. But the next morning, John is hired away to another farm, likely to be gone for many months. Millicent continued to care for the bird, keeping it alive and quiet until John returned. Reunited, the two hear of plans to sell John away and decide to act and choose freedom.
The cruelties and horrors of slavery are front and center in this picture book. The dismantling and breaking of families, the threats and violence, the backbreaking work day after day. The addition of the bird adds a symbol of hope to the book, clearly offering it as a representation of freedom that must be looked after and tended. The text is dense for a picture book, but important as it explains slavery, freedom and the importance of seeing a better future.
Ransome’s illustrations are paintings that play with perspective, looking at the world from the bird’s perspective, seeing its shadow long before it appears, and glimpsing the two children entering the dark field to rescue the bird. One illustration in particular is powerful and dramatic with Meredith and the bird stretching arms and wings together.
A folktale look at freedom and the evils of slavery. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
Numenia and the Hurricane by Fiona Halliday (9781624149993)
Numenia was born in the Arctic with her two whimbrel sisters. At the autumn equinox, they faced a long migration from the far north all the way to the Caribbean along with thousands of other birds. On their journey they are hit by a hurricane, with winds and rain. Numenia is knocked off course, away from her sisters and the other birds. She finds herself tumbling into a city and landing on a windowsill. She rests there for awhile, but is drawn to fly south once again, only half the weight that she had started at. She flies alone until she gets farther south where she sees other birds and finds her sisters waiting for her.
Based on the true story of a whimbrel who was wearing a tracking device when she ran directly into a tropical storm. The device allowed scientists to see where she stopped to rest, how fast she went, and the impact of the storm on her long migration. She both battled the storm and then used the wind to her advantage and flew even faster with their help. Told in poetic lines, this picture book really explores the drama of the arduous migration that covers half the globe. From tiny chicks to quickly flying long distances, these birds are clearly heroes on our planet, their worlds larger than ours by far.
Halliday’s illustrations are dreamy, filled with downy chicks and feathery birds. She uses the natural settings to create moments of beauty, including the triumphant arrival in the south. The scenes in the city are hard and angular, adding to the drama of Numenia’s fall into the hardscape of the city away from nature.
A poetic and haunting look at migration. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Page Street Kids.
Fly! by Mark Teague (9781534451285)
Baby Bird has spent his time having worms delivered right to him in the nest by Mama Bird. So when Mama Bird coaxes him out onto the branch, he throws a bit of a fit. It’s a tantrum big enough to get him out of the nest finally, but it also makes him fall down down down to the ground. Mama Bird encourages him to try to fly back up, but Baby Bird has other ideas. Maybe Mama could carry him or perhaps a hot air balloon? Mama bird warns him that he won’t be able to come along when they migrate to Florida if he can’t fly. Baby Bird thinks that maybe a bike, skateboard, car or train might work even better than flying. Mama Bird next tried to scare baby into flying by talking about dogs, cats, and owls. Owls! Mama Bird may just have convinced her silly Baby Bird to take flight.
Teague’s wordless book is a joy. He cleverly uses speech balloons on the page but fills them with images so that children can “read” this themselves very easily. The conversations between mother and baby are clear and very funny. In particular, Baby Bird’s ideas and jokes will have little ones giggling along. The frustration of Mama Bird is also very clear on the page, her motherly glare is one that most children will recognize from personal experience. Full of great illustrations that tell a complete and compelling story.
A great wordless book that really takes flight. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.
Hummingbird by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray (9781536205381)
In a grandmother’s garden in Central America, a granddaughter watches the zooming hummingbirds. The birds will soon be heading north for the summer to their nesting grounds. The tiny birds must cross the Gulf of Mexico, stopping for a bit of rest on boats along the way. They continue on, following the blooming flowers as they stretch northward. When they reach their nesting grounds, the male hummingbirds defend their nearby flowers. There, the same girl, now in New York City, finds an eggshell on the ground and realizes that she has seen both the beginning and end of the hummingbird’s migration.
Davies, a zoologist, beautifully frames the story of the hummingbird with one little girl’s own travels from Central America to her home in New York City. She makes sure that readers have plenty of facts about the hummingbird, from how light they are to what their diets need to how they nest and migrate. Davies has a real skill for sharing just enough facts with young readers and still telling a compelling story that is not derailed by too many factoids.
The illustrations by Ray are phenomenal. Her delicate lines are exactly the right format for these tiny birds. She captures the beauty of their feathers and their coloring. She also shows them in mid-air but still manages to convey their speed and dexterity.
A beautiful nonfiction picture book about an amazing tiny bird. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth (9780823442829)
Collage artist Roth takes a look at the amazing bowerbird and how her work and their building process compare with one another. Both she and the bowerbird are collectors of random items. They use those items to create compositions. For the bowerbird, that is a bower for their courtship process. They both like unusual objects that they use to create art, things that no one else might ever combine in that way. They both pay attention to color and both seek out praise for their work in the end.
I was really pleasantly surprised by the content and construct of this picture book. While I knew it would be about bowerbirds and humans, I didn’t expect it to be so directly related to the artistic side of both. Roth beautifully shows the fascinating correlations between her work and that of the bird. She demonstrates both in her collage illustrations and in the text of the book how similar they actually are. The text though is kept wonderfully simple, making this book about art very accessible even for young children. She completes the book with more facts about the birds and about her own work as well as a bibliography of sources.
Roth’s illustrations are fabulous. Bright and filled with objects of all kinds, they fill the page with vibrancy. Most of the pages show the bird and then Roth, each working in a similar way on their art. The result is a book about Roth’s way of making art that is also an example of the art itself. Clever stuff!
A very successful mix of nature, science and art. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hello, I’m Here! by Helen Frost, illustrated by Rick Lieder (9780763698584)
This book looks at a family of sandhill cranes as an egg hatches and a chick is born. The little hatchling is soon standing covered in dry fuzz next to their mother. As the day progresses, the chick discovers their brother who has already hatched. They go for a swim in the water and flee from snapping turtles back to the nest where they are now damp and muddy. They have a snack of an insect and a snail. Then they are tired enough for a rest next to their mother.
Frost writes invitingly brief rhyming couplets that accompany the brilliant photographs in this picture book. Her story emphasizes the gentle care of the parent cranes as well as the ability for the newly-hatched chicks to do a bit of exploring on their own. It’s a lovely mix of freedom and protection. The photographs echo that with their focus on the large cranes that dwarf their fuzzy offspring, the beauty of the natural setting, and the adorable pairing of the sibling baby cranes.
Another winner from Frost and Lieder, this one is just right for spring. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from Candlewick Press.