THE BIRDWATCHERS

Simon James, Author, Simon James, Illustrator . Candlewick $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1676-2

The pacing of James's (Leon and Bob) meditative tale takes its cue from the avocation he salutes. Granddad tells the narrator, "Jess, when I go birdwatching, things happen." The opening pen-and-ink and watercolor wash depicts a mild-mannered bespectacled fellow with a cap and binoculars. But the narrative quickly takes a turn: the elderly gent explains that, when he sketches the birds, they sometimes make drawings of him as well (the accompanying illustration shows man and feathered friend perched high on a tree limb, sketch pads and pencils in hand—er, wing). They even help him locate their names in his bird book. These antics make for humorous, understated visuals, and the stories inspire Jess to tag along one day. At first, "Nothing happened." Peering out from a birdwatching hut, however, the duo spies various species ("Yellow Warblers, Ring-necked Ducks, herons, snipe, and Western Grebes") floating on the surface of a nearby pond. James's brushstrokes fill all but the sparest patches of watercolor paper, and the white that shows through simulates sunlight filtering through the trees. Heading for home, Granddad asks Jess what she liked best about the day; picking up on his wry humor, she announces, "I liked it best when the dancing penguins came and shared my sandwich." (Sure enough, a pair of penguins waddle behind them.) This attractive volume rewards those who—like its protagonists—possess a degree of patience and an appreciation of nature. Ages 4-8. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/15/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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