SPARROW JACK by Mordicai Gerstein


Age Range: 7 - 9
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Gerstein reworks a historical anecdote about an Englishman who transplanted himself—and a thousand house sparrows—to this country in 1868. Strange as it may seem, the birds were unknown here before the mid-19th century. One John Bardsley, seeing his adopted town of Philadelphia plagued every spring by inchworms that the local birds refuse to eat, recalls the voracious little pests of his youth, and returns to England to round up a flock. Gerstein depicts Bardsley as a smiling, slender gent in muttonchops and a bowler, surrounding him with both contemporaries in period dress and clouds of handsomely feathered sparrows. Adding a doubtless fanciful element to the tale (which isn’t particularly close to fact anyway), he has Bardsley hear, or perhaps dream, that the sparrows talk it over, and volunteer to make the trip. They get a skeptical reception in Philadelphia, but once they have hatchlings to feed, the inchworm plague is history. Gerstein declines to take up a discussion of the now-controversial practice of importing alien species—but that just makes his tale a springboard for discussion, as well as an engaging take on an obscure bit of Americana. (foreword) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-37139-3
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2003


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