An examination of perhaps “the most despised bird in human history!”
In this masterfully conceived and beautifully illustrated picture book, Thornhill examines a bird whose history is in some ways the opposite of her previous bird study, The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (2016). She examines ways in which the house sparrow’s ancestors adapted to changing human environments, starting with early agriculture in the Middle East through construction of cities that provided “nesting cavities in buildings, plenty of grain, and insects to feed its hatchlings.” Although hunted as a pest, sparrows persisted and spread all over the world. They stowed away to Britain in Roman ships and were eventually carried to New York City and across the United States by migrants, living on grain used for livestock. The population fell dramatically when horse transportation declined and even more in recent years when food supply and nesting sites were drastically reduced due to modern building methods. Thornhill advocates careful analysis of this decline, given the house sparrow’s unique ability to adapt to a fast-changing environment. She places her text against meticulously painted double-page spreads that depict the birds piled up for pies in an old Dutch kitchen, in a boxcar with cattle heading west, and succumbing to Mao’s anti-sparrow campaign.
Superbly designed nonfiction with a powerful environmental message. (map, glossary, list of adaptive species, resources, references) (Informational picture book. 9-14)