A very tall tale about a very big bird.

SUPER THUNDERBIRD

Verhines, a veteran truck driver, relates his encounter with a gigantic, mysterious bird.

In July 2018, the author was driving his rig in Pennsylvania near sunset when he saw the enormous bird. In his initial reaction, recorded for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, he stated that it was a larger-than-average bird. He subsequently revised this estimate upward after both watching an episode of MonsterQuest, a TV show, about giant birds and receiving the exact measurements of “his” thunderbird from God in a prophetic vision. His new estimates are staggering: In this book, he claims the creature he saw in Pennsylvania was 50 feet long with a wingspan of 220 feet (twice as long as an adult blue whale), individual feathers as long as 20 feet, and a possible weight of 2,000 pounds, although he suggests it could be as high as 25,000 pounds (twice as heavy as an adult African elephant). “Its wings and body broke through the sky with such a force that I thought I saw it pushing the air,” he writes. “My guess is that it was dive-bombing me at about 150 miles an hour.” Verhines moves from the account of his own sighting to an overview of other “thunderbird” sightings and to a summary of the whole concept of “cryptozoology,” the practice of theorizing about large, undiscovered animals. But he likewise admits that his primary fact-verification process is religious. “When I want to rivet something down in truth,” he writes, “I use Bible verses or Bible ideas to ground my approach.” He writes about large birds like condors and extinct avian dinosaurs like pterosaurs, but since there is no possibility that an animal the size he describes (much less a breeding population of them) could exist, his digressions on history and speculative biology, however entertainingly written, will likely be dismissed by all but the most zealous cryptozoologists.

A very tall tale about a very big bird.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-97-722436-1

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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