When David Allen Sibley released the first edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds in 2000, he was praised for his inclusion of juvenile plumages among his illustrations of adult birds. It’s fitting, then, that Sibley’s first book for juvenile humans made our list of​​the Best Middle-Grade Books of 2023. Kirkus called What It’s Like To Be a Bird (Adapted for Young Readers) (Delacorte, Oct. 3) “an immensely entertaining and enlightening volume that will entice both adults and children.” Sibley answered our questions by email.

Why did you adapt this book for young readers, and what are some of the differences between the two versions?

I always intended this to be a book for kids, so I describe the original 2020 edition as a sort of kids’ book for adults. Adapting it for younger readers was really important to me and mostly involved shortening and simplifying the text to make it less technical, more understandable, and more interactive.

What was the original idea that started you working on the book?

The original edition of this book took over 15 years from concept to final draft! I started out with the idea of making a bird guide for kids, and I wanted to include “science notes” to explain the amazing things birds can do. The more I got into the research and writing and illustrating of those short essays, the more exciting and interesting that part of the book became to me, and eventually I just gave in and made that the entire book.

The book includes a section titled “Becoming a Birder.” What are the benefits of birding for young people?

I think birding—as a way to get outside—satisfies our fundamental desire to connect with nature. It’s an escape from the day-to-day grind and, at the same time, a connection to something much bigger. Lots of research shows that [spending] time outside is really good for kids; for example, it’s more effective than drugs at controlling ADHD. And birding is really a gigantic, global puzzle-solving game, involving eyes and ears and deductive reasoning. Kids are naturally good at it, and that can be very empowering.

Who is the ideal reader for your book, and where would they be reading it?

Anyone, really, of any age, who’s curious about nature and science. I designed the book to be read in random order; you can start anywhere and see where that takes you. It’s a big book, so I imagine it will be read at home, and I think it’s perfect for kids and adults to read together.

What books published in 2023 were among your favorites?

I’ll start with my two favorite bird-related nonfiction [books] this year: What an Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman and Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper. And earlier this year, I reread a book from my childhood and am happy to report that it’s just as moving as I remember: Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert, first published in 1971.

Dan Nolan is the Indie editorial assistant.