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BIRD GIRL by Jill Esbaum


Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature With the World

by Jill Esbaum ; illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Pub Date: March 12th, 2024
ISBN: 9781635926866
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

A portrait of the naturalist as a young woman.

Growing up in 1870s Indiana, young Geneva Grace Stratton loves to roam and explore, watching and wondering. “Who cares if her apron tears or her face and hands get scratched up?” She’s especially enamored of the birds she sees on the farm. After nursing an injured hawk, she tends to other hurt birds. She adjusts to a different life when her family moves to town, but she misses the country. As an adult, known as Gene, she marries and, in her new country home, happily reconnects with the birds she loves and writes true stories about her experiences with them. Her dream slips away when an editor demands that her work be illustrated with images of stuffed birds. No way. An incident with her daughter’s parrot inspires her to learn photography, and she’s off to nearby Limberlost Swamp, patiently observing birds and taking photos. After five years, she produces photos that wow the editor of Recreation magazine. Esbaum relies on simply stated language and syntax, emphasizing Gene’s love of birds and allowing her determination to shine through. Gibbon’s glowing, detailed acrylic-and-ink illustrations appear in vignettes or in full-page or double-page spreads, matching and enhancing the text. Though greatly respected in her own time, Gene Stratton-Porter is far less well known today; this work rectifies that oversight—this self-taught woman naturalist will come alive for young readers.

Fascinating and inspiring.

(author’s note, more about Gene Stratton-Porter, bibliography, photographs, text credits) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)