NFPB10FOR10: Our Feathered Friends

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It’s time once more for the annual celebration of nonfiction picture books! An outgrowth of Cathy Mere and Mandy Robeck‘s August Picture Book 10 for 10, this is an opportunity for bloggers to share nonfiction picture books they love. Be sure to join Mandy, Julie, and Cathy’s Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community to read about hundreds of wonderful nonfiction picture books.

This is nfpb10for10’s fourth year, and I have participated each year. Here are links to my previous posts:

2015: Lives of the Artists

2014: Nature

2013: Passionately Curious People

This year I’m heading back to nature and focusing specifically on books about birds. I’ve been fascinated by birds my whole life, and have written about bird books before. There are so many books about birds I could have created a list of ten books just about eggs or bluebirds or poetry or any other subcategory imaginable! I did try to limit this list to newer books, although there are a few older titles that are too good to miss. There are also many field guides aimed at young readers that are worthwhile, including National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America: The Best Birding Book for Kids from National Geographic’s Bird Experts (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2013), which I chose not to include on this list.

1.  Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf, by Olivia Bouler, grades K-3 (Sterling Children’s Books, 2011)

When Olivia Bouler learned of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, she was determined to help save the birds and habitat she loved. In this book she not only tells her story, but provides an introduction to different types of birds, as well as links to organizations where children can learn more about birds. Olivia is an inspiring role model for kids who want to make a difference, and to date has raised over $200,000  to clean up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. 

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2. Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen, grades K-3 (Charlesbridge, 2014)

In this book, which was named a National Science Teachers Association-Children’s Book Council Outstanding Science Trade Book, and an ALA Notable Book, in addition to many other honors, noted science writer Melissa Stewart combines scientific facts with poetry to describe the many ways birds use their feathers. Sarah S. Brannen’s illustrations capture many fine details of different feather types. Be sure to visit Melissa Stewart’s website for a wealth of information and resources about Feathers: Not Just for Flying.

3. Beaks!, by Sneed Collard III, llustrated by Robin Brickman  (Charlesbridge, 2002)

Just as he did in Wings (Charlesbridge, 2008), Sneed Collard provides an in-depth look at the wide variety of bird beaks. He describes how each type of beak is perfectly adapted to its owner’s habitat and diet. Robin Brickman’s collage illustrations have a 3-dimensional quality to them and are so life-like you can almost hear the birds singing. Cornell University’s Lab of Ornighology has a page devoted to activities to to along with Beaks! at their BirdSlueth K-12 website.

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4. Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines by Caroline Arnold (Charlesbridge, 2003)

This book, aimed at an older audience, provides in-depth descriptions of how a bird’s anatomy enables it to fly, as well as details about the many stages of flight. Colorful illustrations include a cross-section of a bird’s body, as well as close-ups of the inside of bird bones and feather structure. Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines was selected for The Best Children’s Books of the Year list  by the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education, the CCBC Choices 2004, published by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among other honors.

5. Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, grades K-3 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Any list of nonfiction picture books about animals wouldn’t be complete without a book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. And although this book describes eggs and nesting habits of insects, reptiles, and fish as well as birds, the combination of Jenkins’s stunning collages and fascinating  facts make this book irresistible. Details about each animal’s size and habitat are included, as is a list for additional reading.

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6. A Nest is Noisy, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long, grades K-3 (Chronicle Books, 2015)

Following the same pattern as An Egg is Quiet, A Butterfly is Patient, A Rock is Lively, and A Seed is Sleepy, Aston and Long give readers a glimpse into the many different kinds of nests built by birds and other animals. Again, the miracle of adaptation is on full display, as readers learn how animals use the materials at hand to create safe homes for their eggs and young. A comprehensive teaching guide is available from Chronicle Books.

7. Just Ducks!, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino, grades K-3 (Candlewick Press, 2012)

In this charming picture book, Davies describes the life of ducks, as seen through the eyes of a girl who wakes up to ducks quacking outside her window every morning. Facts about ducks’ eating and nesting habits, their predators, and more are provided on each page. An index is included, as well as a short note about the many kinds of ducks found throughout the world.

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8. Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

The winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual imagines a world twenty years in the future when birds have disappeared. Samworth has created a “catalog” where bird-lovers can go to create their own birds, choosing from a variety of body types, beaks, and feathers, all based on real birds. The contrast between the fun of creating your own bird with the grim reality of extinction make this book appropriate for older readers. Read more about the book and get a close up look at Samworth’s stunning illustrations at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

9. United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds Their Stories, Their Glories by Hudson Talbott, grades 3-5 (Philomel Books, 2008)

This book combines history and geography about each state along with information about each states’ official bird. Talbott’s cartoon-like illustrations provide a fun look at the wide variety of bird species in the U.S.

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10. The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, grades 3-5 (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the NSTA, among other honors, this picture book biography tells of Audubon’s earliest days in America. Audubon’s passion and curiosity led him to discover that the peewee flycatchers he observed one summer returned to the same woods of eastern Pennsylvania the following year. Melissa Sweet’s collage illustrations depict Audubon’s meticulous observations, a clear precursor to the masterpieces he would go on to paint. A Teachers Guide is available here.

Sharing any one of these beautiful books with a child is sure to spark a fascination with our feathered friends.

6 thoughts on “NFPB10FOR10: Our Feathered Friends

  1. Considering what you’re working on in your own writing, this seems like the perfect list for you to have compiled, Catherine.
    Several of these are new to me so I’ll have to check them out in the near future.


  2. I adore birds. The one on Audubon would be a perfect companion to the Schmidt book Okay for Now which some of my fifth graders are reading. Thanks!


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