Entertaining and educational, a superlative package.



A chatty chickadee introduces bird species standouts.

With characteristic humor and carefully crafted language, poet Bulion offers readers amazing facts about birds of our world. Poems and accompanying science notes describe 18 birds that excel in some fashion and explain what nearly all birds have in common; the first poem introduces her focus, and the last notes environmental threats. These engaging poems read aloud beautifully. Thoughtful word choices allow for repeated sounds and pleasing internal rhymes. Each is constructed according to a different pattern, described in the backmatter. Meganck’s digital illustrations reflect the humorous tone. The round eyes of his bird caricatures often stare directly at readers. An amusingly anthropomorphic chickadee, “the great communicator,” guides readers through the text from beginning to end, pointing out in speech bubbles those characteristics birds share with other species and three that are theirs alone: feathers, a furcula (wishbone), and syrinx (“a two-sided voice organ”). (The two unfamiliar words are defined in context.) Like any good teacher, this avian instructor summarizes and repeats at the end. From the tiny bee hummingbird in Cuba through the well-traveled Arctic tern to the familiar chickadee whose warnings many species understand, these record-breaking birds come from all over the world, and their special characteristics vary widely. Excellent resources for further bird study complete this delightful offering.

Entertaining and educational, a superlative package. (glossary, acknowledgements) (Informational poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56145-951-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Pretty but insubstantial.


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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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.


Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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