cover image Birdsong


Audrey Wood. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200014-1

From the sleep-wrenching ""caw-caw-caw"" of morning crows to the gently lulling ""who? who? who?"" of night owls, 18 birdsongs set the scene for a variety of expertly rendered habitats: hummingbirds ""chip-chee-chee"" in Yoshiko's flowering Japanese garden and woodpeckers ""yucca-yucca-yucca"" as Bernard and Francis take a nap in the bayou. Although some of the birdsongs are a stretch (e.g., ""what-cheer, what-cheer, wheat-wheat-wheat"" for the ""saucy cardinals""), Wood's (Bright and Early Thursday Morning) text gives readers helpful clues about the settings for Florczak's (Rough Sketch Beginning) ornate and impressively diverse double-page spreads. Employing a variety of media, Florczak captures the light and air of every locale, so that each takes on its own character and life, from the pigeons in an urban park to a heron taking flight over water. Depicting the birds in the foreground against a frame of indigenous flower and fauna, Florczak then takes the bird in the context of its habitat to convey its size and scale. The illustrations naturally draw the reader's eye, but to incline the listener's ear, the text may require some familiarity with actual birdsong. Common sounds (crow, pigeon, chickadee, owl) will carry readers through the book, but watching the birds take flight is what they'll remember. Ages 6-12. (Sept.)