Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Nest That Wren Built

Carolina wren nestlings
(photo by Randi Sonenshine)
Following the pattern of the well-known rhyme, "The House that Jack Built," Randi Sonenshine tells the story of nesting Carolina wrens. Stanzas are filled with factual information (males help with nest building, spiders feast on mites that would threaten the nest) and gentle illustrations, ink and colored pencils on tinted paper, by Anne Hunter show eggs laid, hatchlings in the nest, Papa bringing food to the nest, and babies finally flying off on their own. A glossary defines bird terminology and a page of Wren Facts adds to the information provided in the poetry. The simple text and familiar rhythm of The Nest That Wren Built, make this a great read-aloud for kids preschool through first grade.

Inside page

This is the bark, snippets of twine,
spidery rootlets, and needles of pine
that shape the nest that Wren built.

Nest in a cardboard box
in the authors garage
(photo by Randi Sonenshine)
Carolina wrens are more colorful than most wrens and fairly easy to identify by their musical song. Males and females look very similar, although the male may be slightly larger in size. They are generally found from central Texas to the east coast, north to the Great Lakes area. The adults live in pairs most of the year and may mate for life. They usually have two broods a year, although in the South they may have three. These are very beneficial birds, dining mostly on insects, adding a small amount of seeds and fruit to their diet. Carolina wrens are not picky about their nesting sites. While they are known to nest on tree stumps, shrubs, and branches, they may build their nest in mail boxes, hanging baskets, cardboard boxes in a garage, or even outdoor lights. They usually build several nests before deciding which to use so consider building a nesting box for them.

Photo: By Dan Pancamo - Flickr: Carolina Wren

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Whooo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story

There are more than 200 species of owls in the world and about 20 in North America.  The Great Horned Owl is the most common and probably the most beloved. Through haiku, Maria Gianferrari introduces readers to a family of owls as they find a nest (Great Horned Owls don't make their own nests; they use abandoned nests in wooded areas), lay eggs, hunt, brood, and raise their young. Gianferrari doesn't shy away from the harsher parts of nature: an egg is lost to a crow's attack and a chick has to be rescued from a hawk. But we watch as two beautiful owlets grow up and soon fly off to find their own homes.
(Photo from Creative Commons)

Told in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, haiku is an ancient and popular form for nature poetry. Gianferrari's story is lyrically told and packs in a lot of information in these sparse lines. The tale is so well told that most young readers probably won't even realize it is poetry. Some words will need defining (ex. Mama mantles is used to mean the spreading of wings and tail to cover something) but overall this will be very readable and understandable by most 2-6 graders.

Back matter provides more information on Great Horned Owls, including their big eyes, their weight and wingspan, and what they eat. References are made to excellent websites, including "Owl Pages," a great site that provides information on owls of the world and provides sound files to hear the owls.
Interior page

Dreamy illustrations by Jonathan Voss were created using sepia ink and watercolors and provide clear representations of the owls' cycle of life, habitat, and habits.

Like most owls, Great Horned Owls are primarily nocturnal so we have to listen for them after dark. They usually begin hunting at dusk, so if you are lucky you may catch sight of this swift bird looking for food to bring back to a nest. Look also on fence posts and tree limbs on the edges of open areas. Unlike many birds, Great Horned Owls nest during the winter, so look high in trees like cottonwoods for birds incubating eggs. One way to encourage owls to stick around in your neighborhood is to build owl houses for them to nest in. These can be purchased but simple plans are also available on the Internet.

PRIZEWHOOO? YOUU!  The publisher, who provided an advanced copy of the book to me for review, will give away a copy to a US resident. Leave a comment here or email your information to Maria through her website, by March 21 to be entered in a drawing. One winner will be selected.

WHOO’s Maria Gianferrari? She’s a self-proclaimed bird nerd with a special fondness for raptors. Her love affair with birds began in 7th grade science class when her teacher, Mr. Lefebvre, initiated a bird count. While walking in her neighborhood, Maria’s always on the look-out for all kinds of birds, and she loves searching winter tree tops for nests in her northern Virginia neighborhood where she lives with her German-scientist husband and German speaking daughter. This is her first book with GP Putnam’s Sons. She’s also the author of another bird book, Hawk Rising (reviewed here 6/5/2018). To learn more about Maria, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Let's Discover Birds

Divided into sections by characteristics (nesters, songbirds, water dwellers, etc.) the text in Let's Discover Birds explores the sounds and physical identification of a variety of birds. Each double page spread focuses on a couple of birds. Along with brief facts ("House sparrows nest in empty buildings and birdhouses."), there is an activity, a sticker, and fun facts ("A group of larks can be called an exaltation.") or jokes. Final pages encourage kids to fill in the shapes with stickers that are included.

Most of the birds, like geese, robins, and pigeons, will be fairly easy for kids to spot around their homes or in parks. Some, like puffins and kittiwakes will require a trip to an aquarium or specific areas of North America.  The illustrations of the birds are realistic and clear with general identifications markings.

This book is part of a spin-off series from an animated film, the illustrated characters are those from Helen Oxenbury's book, Let's Go on a Bear Hunt, but the family sets out to discover birds instead of bears. Other than the human characters, I'm not sure why this is a "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" book as the text doesn't follow the pattern of that fun action activity, but Let's Discover Birds will get the kids out of the house and looking for birds.  Because this is an activity book with stickers and is designed for kids to write and color in, it won't be found in many libraries. Consider it as a gift for a budding birder.

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Audubon Makes Prints Free to Download

Cedar Bird
(Audubon Society)
American Avocet
(Audubon Society)
I'm a little late sharing this but it is still important news. In November, 2019, The Audubon Society announced that it has made 435 prints from the legendary Birds of America available for free download in high resolution images.  The collection of  life-size prints were based off of Audubon's own illustrations. They were painted en plein air, and have long been coveted "for their exactness as well as their outstanding beauty." They are displayed on the Audubon website in alphabetical order with the original accompanying text, making them a great resource for learning about birds. A second sort allows you to find state birds included in the collection (not all state birds are available, however). It's hard to decide on just a few favorites but you will find that you spend hours looking at the plates and learning about the birds, where and how John James Audubon found them, and reading his field notes. Each image page also includes links to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds for additional information. The Cedar Waxwing, for example, was labeled as Cedar Bird by Audubon. Check it out!