LOOK UP!

BIRD-WATCHING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

A chatty, appealing introduction to observing these easiest-to-see of all wild creatures.

Amusing scenes of loquacious birds and occasional human observers fill these busy pages. The pen-and-ink–and-watercolor cartoons are reminiscent of Roz Chast, with speech bubbles carrying much of the information. Where it would be informative, birds are labeled. Their variety is astounding; the page on coloration alone shows 60 different species from across the country. Cate’s enthusiasm is catching, but she starts simply. She talks about looking at birds in one’s backyard and neighborhood, with no special tools except for a sketch book—not since drawing is easy but since the effort requires close attention to details. She addresses color, shape and activities before moving on to using field marks to distinguish similar-looking birds. A comical central spread shows a sparrow fashion show, with the different species sporting their distinctive decorations. She discusses plumage variations, sounds and the use of field guides. The fact that birds look different because they live in different places and behave in different ways leads to consideration of habitat, range and migration. Finally, an explanation of classification includes an introduction to scientific names. The bibliography has good suggestions for birders of any age. Small and accessible, this is jam-packed with accurate information likely to increase any potential birder’s enthusiasm and knowledge. (index, drawing, tips) (Nonfiction. 8-15)

 

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4561-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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