It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Bird Books


One of the few memories I have of 2nd grade is learning about birds. My teacher, Mrs. Wheaton, must have been a bird-watcher, because she taught us about the song birds native to our area. I  don’t remember what specific facts about birds I learned from her, but I have clear memories of coloring pictures of the Baltimore oriole, red-wing blackbird, goldfinch, and more. The pages  had the purple ink and intoxicating smell of a mimeograph machine, and I loved them. At the end of the unit, all the pages were stapled together into a little book. 

9780763645618_p0_v1_s260x420I was reminded of this project recently when I read Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard. (Candlewick Press, 2013) This book is filled to the brim with fascinating details about bird species, habitats, flight behavior, wing shape, beak shape, songs and more. Author and illustrator Annette LeBlanc Cate tells readers at the start that she is not a scientist; she just really loves birds. Her love shines through on every page of this fact-filled, engaging book.

One of my favorite things about Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own, which won a Robert F. Sibert Honor, is that it encourages children to hone their powers of observation. Cate urges readers to go outside and “be amazed at just how thrilling it can be to see new birds, find out about them and learn their names.” Tips for successful birdwatching, as well as a bibliography for budding birders are included. Cate also recommends that readers visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. This is an extensive resource, where you can search for information about almost any North American bird, hear its song and watch several species in the wild via their Bird Cam.

Parrots-over-Puerto-Rico1Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Lee & Low Books, 2013) by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore is a gorgeous book that tells the story of the Puerto Rican parrot. Called iguaca by the Tainos who arrived on the island over a thousand years ago, “hundreds of thousands of parrots flew over the island” before Puerto Rico was settled by humans. Roth and Trumbore’s description of this paradise is brought to life in Roth’s stunning collages. Using paper and fabric, she creates scenes that have such depth and texture you wouldn’t be surprised if the birds flew off the page.

By weaving the history of Puerto Rico together with the fate of these now extremely rare parrots,  Roth and Trumbore make it clear that humans have been the primary culprits in the birds decline. But they also devote almost half of the book to the efforts humans have taken since the late 1960s to save the Puerto Rican parrot. They describe the setbacks as well as the successes scientists have had as they fight to save the Puerto Rican parrot.

Winner of the 2014 Robert F. Siebert Medal for Most Distinguished Informational Book for Children, Parrots Over Puerto Rico has a lengthy afterword that describes the work of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program in greater detail and includes photographs of the birds in the aviaries and in the wild. There is also a timeline of events described in the book, as well as a list of sources.


For younger bird lovers, Jennifer Ward has created the lovely Mama Build a Little Nest (Beach Lane Books, 2014). This rhyming book describes how many different species of birds build their nests. Some, like the hummingbird, are “wee and snug,” while others, such as the falcon, scrape “a simple nest/upon a craggy ledge.” Steve Jenkins’ beautiful collages are just right for Ward’s simple, straightforward text. Each page also includes an additional fact about the birds and their habits and a short author’s note provides additional information about nest construction and a list of websites to explore.

If you or your students weren’t bird watchers before, you definitely will be after reading these books. Mrs. Wheaton would have loved them!

Don’t forget to visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers to find out what other people have been reading lately. Thanks, Jen and Kellee, for hosting!

Poetry Friday: A Spicing of Birds


One of my earliest memories is finding the remnants of a robin’s egg under a tree in my grandmother’s front yard. When I showed her my treasure, she “oohed” and “ahhed” and told me all kinds of interesting things about robins. 

I’ve been thinking about birds a lot these past few days. Now that spring is finally here, birds start singing in the tree outside my window before my alarm goes off. I don’t know as much about birds as my grandmother did, but they still fascinate me. So yesterday, when I stopped in at the library, my eye was immediately drawn to this book on the new book display shelf:

Schuman comp_final.indd A Spicing of Birds (Wesleyan University Press, 2010) is a gorgeous book. Jo Miles Schuman and Joanna Bailey Hodgman have selected thirty-seven of Emily Dickinson’s poems about birds and paired them with illustrations “by late eighteenth century to early twentieth century artists/ornithologists.” An introduction describes Dickinson as an “intimate of birds;” someone who “observed them closely and knew intimately their songs, habits, and characteristics.” Her poetry is filled with the fruits of her noticings. Here is one of my favorite poems from this lovely collection.

The Robin is the One

That interrupt the Morn

With hurried—few—express Reports

When March is scarcely on—

The Robin is the One

That overflow the Noon

With her cherubic quantity—

An April but begun—

The Robin is the One

That speechless from her Next

Submit that Home—and Certainty

And Sanctity, are best.

Please be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Poetry Friday: “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?”


Although National Poetry Month has officially ended, poetry continues, always waiting for us to pay close attention and find it. For those of us still honing our craft, Ron Koertge has this advice.

“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?”

by Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave

your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap

one is best, with pages the color of weak tea

and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Image by David Castillo Dominici via
Image by David Castillo Dominici via

Thanks to Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for hosting the Poetry Friday Round Up. Be sure to stop by to read more poetry posts.