cover image I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death

I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life & Death

Jan Thornhill, . . Maple Tree, $21.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-1-897066-71-3

Thornhill's volume, liberally sprinkled with photographs, provides a wealth of accessible and intriguing information about life and death. The narrative opens with a child's perspective in mind ("I found a dead bird/ It made me sad... but I also had a lot of questions, like, Why did it have to die?... What would happen to it now that it was dead?"). Acknowledging at the start that talking and thinking about death can be scary, the author notes that "avoiding the topic of death can add to our fears." She begins with the fact that each living thing has a beginning and an end to its life, then explores such topics as life expectancies of familiar species (an elephant, dog, etc.); she also delivers a Ripley's-like twist by citing the "record" for the species' life expectancies. Readers learn about food chains, extinction, human funeral customs and beliefs in the afterlife. Set against electric-hued backgrounds, collage-style layouts feature crisp inset photos and realistic illustrations. The text, arranged into easily accessible boxes and sidebars, includes tidbits of kid-pleasing trivia and allows for dipping or a straight read-through. Not all of the material is easy to digest: readers may find photos of a decomposing pig and of a maggot magnified 70 times revolting, and Thornhill encourages them to "go ahead and say it: yuck !" But most youngsters will come away with a positive reaction to this visually stimulating and informative volume. Ages 9-13. (Sept.)