TOWNSEND'S WARBLER by Paul Fleischman


Age Range: 8 & up
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In a slim volume whose understated, elegant appearance recalls his Newbery winner (Joyful Noise, 1988), Fleischman recounts the journey of John Kirk Townsend, who left Philadelphia in 1834 to follow the Oregon Trail with fellow-naturalist Thomas Nuttall; and--in alternating vignettes--we see the migration of the warblers that Townsend eventually spotted the next spring. As is still the custom, Townsend shot the first warbler he saw as a specimen; later, Nuttall gave the species his name. Fleischman's telling is clear, graceful, and equipped with a fair number of authentic details, but it lacks the zest that makes Freedman's account of a similar journey so compelling (Indian Winter, p. 464). The problem is partly with the supporting material. The endpaper maps (of the birds' journey, and the men's) are fine, and the small b&w reproductions lend a pleasing 19th-century look--but there's no clue that, e.g., that a 3 1/2" reproduction of a Bierstadt picture of the Rockies represents an enormous painting. Worse is the absence of source notes or bibliography, not just to prove authenticity but to suggest where information like this is found (again, cf. Freedman). How the bird got its name is interesting and exemplary; the narrative structure is a worthy experiment; but the story--like Townsend's specimen--lost its vitality along the way to being memorialized. (Nonfiction. 8+)

Pub Date: May 30th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-021874-6
Page count: 52pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992


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