Sunday, May 15, 2016


Circle by Jeannie Baker is a beautiful book. The narration is so lyrical and poetic that reading it actually gave me chills. The collage illustrations are soft yet very detailed and realistic.

Few readers will immediately recognize the godwit, a member of the sandpiper family. These shorebirds can be hard to distinguish from other mottled, barred, or marbled brownish birds and there are several species among the group.

In Circle the species is the bar-tailed godwit, which breeds in Alaska and migrates around the world from Australia and New Zealand. While many shorebirds make extensive trips during migration, one  bar-tailed godwit was documented as having made the more than 7,000 mile trip non-stop. Tracked via satellite tags, this is the longest journey that has been officially documented. Amazing birds! In Rockport we primarily see marbled godwits, which breed in the center of North America and migrate to the coast for the winter, a much shorter journey.
Marbled Godwit

Baker opens the book with an illustration of a young handicapped boy (the wheelchair is next to the bed) wishing he could fly. A birding journal sits beside him. Watching from his wheelchair on the beach, he follows the godwits as they depart on their journey north. The locations are not identified but the birds struggle to find a safe place to rest when their habitat has disappeared. In an apparently Asian country they eat and eat until they are filled with the fat needed for their long journey to the Arctic north. The male godwit scrapes a shallow nest for his mate and eggs hatch. Danger lurks for the newborn chicks but one survives, grows up, and follows his parents back across the world. The circle continues. In the final page, the young boy no longer needs the wheelchair or crutches and dreams he is actually flying along with the godwits.

Although I overlooked it on my first reading, an author's note and map are appended. Therein, Baker explains the importance of wetlands for these and other waterbirds and the map identifies the areas and countries where the bar-tailed godwits go during migration. There is also a list of the other migrating creatures that careful readers can search for in the book. Circle is a great book for sharing with budding birders, especially those who live near the shores or wetlands. Pair it with Moonbird by Phillip Hoose for older readers, about a red knot that has flown enough miles to go to the moon and back.