Enchanting, indeed. An invitation to a world of ornithological wonders.

READ REVIEW

THE ATLAS OF AMAZING BIRDS

An album of bird portraits from around the world, created and curated by a British ornithologist.

In his introduction, bird-watcher Sewell describes this as “my personal selection of the most amazing birds in the world—the most beautiful, strange, scary, speedy, and enchanting.” He’s organized his collection loosely by continent, preceding each chapter with a map outlining and labeling the countries. There’s no index, but the birds described in each section are listed by page number on the map spread. As with Narisa Togo’s Magnificent Birds (2017), a compilation with a similar premise but far fewer entries, this includes stylized images accompanied by a challenging text. Even adult readers will appreciate the author’s nimble word choice, his humor, and his admirable descriptive abilities. A Himalayan monal (Asia) is a “thoroughly pleasant pheasant.” Of the Andean cock-of-the rock (South America): “The males are dressed in an effervescent, glowing orange-red with what look like metallic silver solar panels on their backs.” Flat, full-color images of each bird are set on a white background. These are labeled with the bird’s common and scientific names. They’re reasonably accurate and certainly identifiable, though not to scale. Each of the 140 or so entries includes one or two paragraphs of descriptive text as well as the bird’s length in English units and where in the world it might be found. Unscientific, perhaps, but appreciative and informative.

Enchanting, indeed. An invitation to a world of ornithological wonders. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61689-857-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

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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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

GET THE SCOOP ON ANIMAL SNOT, SPIT & SLIME!

FROM SNAKE VENOM TO FISH SLIME, 251 COOL FACTS ABOUT MUCUS, SALIVA & MORE

Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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