Thursday, October 10, 2013

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

When I talk about birding or my book, Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas, I am often asked for suggestions to help young birders get going on this hobby. Unlike a lot of hobbies, birding takes little or no equipment and can be enjoyed almost anywhere (it's a little harder to bird-watch from the middle of the ocean but even there you may see a few gulls and distance flying birds).

Look Up!: Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate provides a humorous
introduction to birding for young readers, approximately 8 to 12 years old. Beginning with the inside cover papers and fly leaves, the book is packed with information, facts, and trivia. Birding etiquette and advice is outlined with whimsical asides and comments ("Don't put yourself in harm's way, ever! It's only a bird. Really." Cate became interested in birding as part of doing nature sketches and encourages kids to also draw what they see outside. The focus on the book starts in your own backyard and places close to home. Even in pretty urban settings there are a lot of birds to watch!

Chapters focus on color, shape, behavior, and details (field marks) that offer clues to identification. Even all those little brown birds have distinguishing characteristics! The cartoon-like illustrations and dialogue bubbles make the book fun and enjoyable as well as informative. A two-page map shows the geographic diversity of some of the more than 800 species that call North America home and the book ends with a good look at classification ("Classification Class!") and naming of birds. A bibliography suggests a number of guide books and websites to further help with identification of birds.

Sure, you can buy some fancy stuff for birding but in actuality you don't even need binoculars to start this hobby. But this book sets young birders on the right flight path.

(Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Candlewick Press.)

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