Monday, February 25, 2019

Superlative Birds

Many of us are enthralled by trivia. As kids we pore over the Guiness Book of World Records and as adults we watch quiz games. For birders, Leslie Bulion's book, Superlative Birds, will provide fodder for Jeopardy and send readers to birding books for more information. Here we learn which bird has the loudest voice (spoiler: although several birds have loud voices, the kakapo of New Zealand has a call that can be heard for miles), which bird weighs the least (easy one; the bee hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world), which is the most gruesome hunter (the shrike is known as the "butcher bird" for a reason), and more. Each superlative is accompanied by a poem and a science note that provides details about the bird and its features. Running commentary by a chickadee answers additional questions and provides details to ponder. There is even a QR code embedded on one page that can be scanned to hear the poem about the Arctic Tern being sung.  Robert Meganck's digital illustrations are whimsical, yet realistic and highlight the superlative feature being discussed.

Shrike (used with permission)

Shrikes are vicious hunters,
impaling insects on barbed wire
(Photo by Jeanette Larson)
As Bulion notes in her final poem, every bird is a superlative bird. But with habitats changing, climate patterns shifting, and pesticides and plastics polluting the earth, the superlative birds she highlights are at risk of disappearing. Back matter includes a glossary and notes on the poetry that explain the style of each poem, and concludes with additional resources for birders. End papers have labeled sketches of the birds; the front identifies the superlatives while the back identifies the bird, allowing for a great trivia contest. With the combination of poetry and science, Superlative Birds provides classroom and curriculum uses that reach beyond birding.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher. I receive no compensation for reviewing the book.