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The Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet

by Joan Dunning & illustrated by Joan Dunning

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59078-715-1
Publisher: Boyds Mills

A marbled murrelet chick’s early life is surprising. Most seabirds lay their eggs on the sand or high cliffs at the water’s edge, but the marbled murrelet usually lays a single egg high on a branch of an old-growth tree, far from the ocean. (The author identifies these trees as redwoods, but others are used as well.) The hatched chick spends a month hunkered down on the branch, camouflaged by its own down, waiting for a parent to arrive with fish. This large-format picture book describes the life of one such chick. Dunning sets the stage with a note outlining the mystery and a map. In a straightforward way she tells the chick’s story, first introducing its parents as they float on the ocean and dive beneath. She follows the pair as they fly inland, deposit their egg and keep it warm until it hatches. Then she focuses on the chick as it waits in the dark forest, before finally picking off his down to reveal full-grown feathers; he jumps off the branch and flies off to the sea. The text runs beneath expressive illustrations, with close-ups of adult birds and their chick as well as landscapes suggesting their contrasting worlds; they support the mood of mystery and show well at a distance. Text boxes set on the illustrations add further detail. A beautiful addition to larger bird or Pacific Coast collections. (sources, websites) (Informational picture book. 5-9)