Apr 1, 2010

Review -- Nature and Nonfiction

I'm not a real bird enthusiast, but possess a casual interest. There's a pair of horned owls at our RV park and I don't tire of listening to their eerie sounds or trying to catch a glimpse of them nesting in the palm trees.  I've become more acquainted with birds of the desert as the park is full of doves, cactus wrens and, my favorite, Gambel's Quail. These three titles about birds caught my casual interest.

The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: a birder's journal 
by Sallie Wolf, designed by Micah Bornstein
Charlesbridge 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction
Ages 9-12

This is a lovely book of poems and more about bird identification and behavior, a textual and visual record of observations designed like a actual journal. The poems are brief, only a few reach 16-18 lines, and are mostly descriptive with some thoughtful, emotional overtones. The ink drawings and watercolors leave an immediate, ephemeral feel as if they were swiftly done rather than studied. Quick but not sloppy. The arrangement is by season, beginning with spring. Alongside the free-verse poems are an occasional haiku, lists of birds seen, and short notes such as "April 23 -- First sighting of a white-throat -- I've been hearing them for about 3 days." The poems appear in a traditional serif font, while notes and lists are hand-written. The journal-like feel is carried throughout. A note reads "Illustrations done in watercolors and pen and ink on Sallie's original journal pages and on handmade paper, then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop." I appreciate the author sharing her love of nature in such a creative way.
from one of my favorite poems "Robins Take a Bath"
Fluffy fledglings preen their feathers.
Four birds fly away.
Freshly groomed and tidy robins,
finished for the day.

Nest, Nook and Cranny
by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Charlesbridge 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction/Poetry
Ages 9-12

This one's only peripherally about birds, really. It's focus is animals and their habitats. The chapter headings -- Desert, Grassland, Shoreline, Wetland, Woodland -- each have a double page spread illustrating representative animals in the habitat. The untitled poems are a combination of free verse and various forms. Rather than noting the forms on the page where the poem appears they are noted in the back matter in a section titled "Writing Poetry" which also includes useful information about ideas and writing techniques like alliteration. The effective, black & white illustrations, done in mixed media and pastels and charcoal, complement and don't overwhelm the poems. One I like begins "The sweetest home sweet home must be a hive,/Humming with activities of bees. They never wipe their feet when they arrive;/They track their tacky nectar where they please." A gratifying melding of science, art and literature.

An Egret's Day
by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction/ Poetry
Ages 9-12

Here's another appealing combination of science, poetry and art informing readers about the striking Great Egret, a migratory bird of the heron family. Double-page spread include a poem, short paragraph of factual information, and one or more stunning photographs of the bird in flight, on trees, in the water. As the title suggests the finely-crafted poems follow egrets from morning through evening and provide thoughtful observation. "Close-up" begins "As conscious of his beauty/As any Hollywood star,/The egret poses." and is accompanied by a head-and-shoulders shot of the bird, white feathers tinted with a rosy glow. The image, words and design work beautifully together. This is Yolen's and Stemple's fourteenth book together and they are a fine team.

Thanks to Charlesbridge and Raab Associates (for Jane Yolen's title) for providing review copies.

No comments: