McCullough, Joy. Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-534-48676-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.
Harriet Hemenway loved hats, as did many women in Boston in 1896. At that time, millinery was decorated with all manner of bows, flowers, ribbons, feathers, and even dead birds-the more the better. One day at breakfast, Harriet was surprised to read in the newspaper that millions of birds were killed every year to supply these decorative notions. With the support of her cousin Minna, Harriet began a campaign to stop the slaying of these beautiful creatures for fashion’s sake. The cousins invited society women to tea, where the guests were horrified to hear about the carnage. More women pledged to boycott feathered fashions and the movement to save birds gained traction. The cousins asked bird scientists to give lectures and recruited influential people to help form an organization whose mission was the protection of earth’s feathered friends. And so the Audubon Society was founded. Word spread to other states and even to Queen Victoria and President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed a bill establishing federal bird reservations. McCullough uses avian word play to make the text more engaging, with such witty phrases as “[Harriet’s] feathers were too ruffled to eat” and “great big ostrich of a problem.” Galotta’s large scale illustrations done in watercolor are soft and very appealing. The color and detail in the drawings of various birds is wonderful. The back matter contains more information about the Audubon Society and birdwatching.
THOUGHTS: This fictionalized picture book account of the accomplishments of Harriet Hemenway is a delight. It will ignite a discussion on conservation and advocacy and shows how one person can effect change. This book is a good choice for Earth Day and is a must have for elementary collections. McCullough’s middle grade novel Across the Pond, is also about birds and was inspired by a British girl who loved and wrote about birdwatching.
Picture Book Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Bayly, Sami. A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures. The Experiment, 2021. 978-1-615-19824-5. 125 p. $18.95. Grades 3-8.
Dangerous…it’s a word that evokes feelings of fear and terror in many individuals. While animals considered or called dangerous can pose some level of threats to humans, they are often misunderstood. Author and illustrator Sami Bayly spotlights some of these creatures and explores how they have adapted to ward off predators with amazing (and yes, dangerous) defense mechanisms. For example, the greater slow loris (a small, tree-dwelling primate native to some countries in Asia), produces toxins in its elbow glands. If you see it licking its armpit/elbow area, watch out! It’s collecting venom that mixes with saliva to create a toxic bite. The geography cone snail lives near coral reefs in the Pacific. From the outside, it looks like a beautiful seashell, but inside lives the world’s most venomous sea snail. One shot of the snail’s venom can kill up to 15 people! These are just two of the 60 creatures profiled in this engaging title. Each entry defines the danger profile for the animal, as well as identifying their habitat, eating habits and conservation status. Particularly noteworthy are Byly’s illustrations. Trained as a natural history illustrator, her detailed watercolor paintings are true works of art and bring the animals to life.
Note: A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures was previously published in Australia under the title The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals.
THOUGHTS: This fantastic title will give readers a new appreciation and respect for the ways animals have adapted to survive. Ideal for casual browsers or researchers, readers will find themselves engrossed by the interesting facts presented about each animal and the detailed illustrations.
591.6 Animals Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Pritchard, Caroline Kusin. Gitty and Kvetch. Illustrated by Ariel Landy. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-47826-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Gitty is sure today is “the perfect day to hang the perfect painting in our perfect, purple tree house.” Kvetch, Gitty’s bird friend, isn’t so sure he’s ready after their last adventure. But Gitty isn’t deterred by Kvetch’s pessimism and convinces him to join the fun with a tempting worm sandwich. Along the way, Gitty sees many wonderful sights, while Kvetch identifies the negatives. Even when storm clouds appear Gitty wonders, “Did we hit the jackpot or what?” It’s not until the friends are forced to take refuge in their tree house that Gitty realizes her “perfect painting was wet and wrecked, just like her perfect day.” Will Kvetch be able to overcome his negative attitude to help his friend see the bright side? Beautiful, bright digital illustrations highlight Gitty’s optimism, while muted purple tones show Kvetch’s cynicism. A glossary of Yiddish words is included at the end, helping emerging readers understand Kvetch’s meaning throughout the story. Note: Kvetch is not identified as male or female, but for the purpose of writing this review I identified him as male.
THOUGHTS: Reminiscent of Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing, young readers will adore Gitty and Kvetch’s friendship and come to appreciate how differences put together can make the perfect pair. Highly recommended for elementary picture book collections.
Picture Book Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
McCullough, Joy. Across the Pond. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-5344-7121-4. 276 p. Grades 4-6. $17.99.
Twelve year old Calliope is excited to move from sunny San Diego to not so sunny Scotland. Her parents inherited a castle from Lady Whittington-Spence, who knew her parents as students. Callie sees this move as an opportunity to have a fresh start, after dealing with friend issues back home. Sid, a girl her age living on the estate with her grandfather, the caretaker, does not seem interested in becoming friends. Callie’s parents insist that she join a club where she can socialize with others her age. So Callie joins a birdwatching (“twitching”) club, but is kicked out when she disagrees with the adult leader. Sid and Callie become tentative friends and go bird watching together. During a twitching competition on the estate, alarming events help both girls realize how to be a true friend while staying true to themselves. The author uses flashback to tell the parallel story of Lady Whittington-Spence as a young war evacuee. Her letters disclose the same feelings of loneliness and interest in birdwatching as Callie. Another flashback toward the end reveals the peer pressure incident in San Diego that shattered Callie’s self-esteem. The unique setting, based on McCullough’s own experience, takes this narrative of young adolescent struggles to a different level. As the book comes to an end, the author has one more surprise to share.
THOUGHTS: Although the story gets off to a slow start, readers who stick with it will be rewarded. Preteen and young teenagers will be able to relate to the issues of facing peer pressure and developing friendships. An excellent choice for elementary and middle school collections.
Realistic Fiction Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Huddleston, Emma. The Science of Animal Movement. Abdo. 2021. Book: $21.95, Series of 6: $131.70. Grades 2-5.
How Birds Fly. 978-1-532-19292-0.
How Bugs Jump. 978-1-532-19293-7.
How Critters Climb. 978-1-532-19294-4.
How Fish Swim. 978-1-532-19295-1.
How Mammals Run. 978-1-532-19296-8.
How Snakes Slither. 978-1-532-19297-5.
The Science of Animal Movement series describes how animals are able to move depending on their body, size, and its surroundings. The Reviewer read How Birds Fly, focusing specifically on birds. How Birds Fly provides information on how the wide category of birds can move in a variety of ways. From the largest of birds, to the smallest, coast to coast and in every possible biome, birds are found and able to move differently compared to others of the same type.
THOUGHTS: This series provides great information on the science behind the movement of animals. The books come with several different information pieces, including large photographs, colorful text, links & QR codes, diagrams, charts, and more.
500s Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD
Sandri, Barbara, and Francesco Giubbilini. Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia. Princeton Architectural Press, 2021. 978-1-616-89908-0. 71 p. $19.95. Grades 3-6.
What’s that clucking noise you hear? It’s a chicken, of course! Students will learn all about these amazing barnyard creatures in Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia. Topics presented include the different varieties of chickens, chicken characteristics, habitat, chicken care and health, reproduction, chickens throughout history, and much more. Also discussed are chickens in literature and chickens as pets. In addition, readers will learn about chicken eggs, including parts of the egg, types of eggs, and how eggs are eaten around the world. The text is accompanied by Camilla Pintonato’s numerous detailed illustrations, which are sure to keep readers engaged in the world of chickens.
THOUGHTS: This is an excellent resource for all things chicken! Written in a conversational style, Chickenology will be of use to student researchers as well as the casual browser, who will no doubt enjoy all the unique chicken factoids shared through the book. (Did you know studies have shown chicks can count up to four?) Highly recommended.
636.5 Farm Animals Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Stockdale, Susan. Bird Show. Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-682-63128-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2.
Author and illustrator Susan Stockdale celebrates the unique characteristics and adaptations of birds in Bird Show. Each vibrant illustration, created with acrylic on paper, depicts a bird displaying it’s unique coat of feathers. The text, which is written in rhyming couplets, features the birds describing their characteristics. Examples include the golden pheasant declaring “My scarf stripes are curvy” while the egret tells readers “I flaunt a full skirt of milky-white lace.” Backmatter includes a profile of each bird as well as a quiz that asks readers to match the colors and patterns to the correct bird.
THOUGHTS: A fantastic choice for read-alouds, this title could be incorporated into a variety of lessons, including poetry, birds, or an illustration. A first purchase for any elementary library collection.
598 Birds Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Page, Robin. The Beak Book. Beach Lane Books, 2021. 978-1-534-46041-6. $17.99. Grades K-3
Beaks, beaks, and more beaks! The Beak Book by Robin Page is filled with beaks from birds found all over the world. With beautiful illustrations, this book provides information to young readers about the jobs of different beaks. From a toucan to a hummingbird, stabbing to plucking, beaks are an amazing feature of birds that can do a variety of jobs!
THOUGHTS: This book provides many examples of the amazing things birds can do with their beaks. The illustrations provide a picture of the bird head, as well as a smaller illustration with what the bird can do with its beak. This book is a great, easy to understand, informational book for young readers.
598.14 Birds Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD
Meisel, Paul. My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44322-2. 36 p. Grades K-2. $17.99.
This charming picture book is told from the point of view of a hummingbird called Ruby. Written in a diary format, the humorous narrative follows the bird’s life cycle. The story begins with Ruby exiting his tiny egg and looking forward to a tasty meal of insects and nectar delivered by his mother. Soon the small bird begins to fly and finds his own source of food. Ruby needs to learn to defend himself from the other hummingbirds, who also enjoy eating at the flower-shaped feeder. With the arrival of fall, this tiny creature flies to Mexico and makes an exhausting return trip by flying 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico. In the spring, Ruby turns his thoughts to finding a mate. The text is sparse, with one or two sentences per page, which allows the pictures to take center stage. Meisel uses watercolors, acrylics, and gouache to create his colorful large scale full bleed illustrations. He does an excellent job showing the motion of the hummingbird’s fast beating wings and its amazing aviation skills, as the birds go up, down, backwards and even upside down. The author includes facts about these feathered friends on the front endpapers and in the back matter and gives helpful comparisons to allow readers to imagine their actual size.
THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy poring over the drawings as they read about this interesting animal. They may want to check out other books in Meisel’s “A Nature Diary” series to learn about the praying mantis, the bluebird and the always popular stink bug. This book is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections as a good resource for science units, as a mentor text for point of view, and creative nonfiction and for just plain enjoyment.
598.764, Hummingbirds Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
D’Aquino, Andrea. She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist. Princeton, Architectural Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-648-96050-5. $18.95. Grades 1-3.
This picture book biography is the story of a woman who made a difference. Florence Merriam Bailey grew up in the late 19th century with her family who loved nature. Her mother was an astronomer and her father took the family on a summer long camping trip where she loved to observe the forest animals. Florence’s favorite creatures were birds and she studied their behavior and songs. She strongly disliked the latest fashion in hats, which were adorned with feathers and even the actual carcasses of birds. Bailey and her classmates at Smith College initiated a successful boycott of these hats. Florence became an avid ornithologist and promoted watching birds in a natural setting with binoculars in contrast to scientists who studied them in laboratories. She was the author of a field guide and other books on birds and their methods of communication. The author’s full bleed illustrations are done using hand-painted collage, oil pastel and pencil. Readers will enjoy examining the many colorful birds that are depicted.
THOUGHTS: This book is a great choice for elementary collections. It could be used during Women’s History Month, Earth Day or in science units. Children will learn about the wonder and beauty of our feathered friends and may be inspired to do some birdwatching on their own.
921 Biography Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member