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189 Canaries

Dieter Böge, trans. from the German by Laura Watkinson, illus. by Elsa Klever. Eerdmans, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5574-9

In this English-language debut by German author Böge, comprehensive prose in the third-person perspective closely follows the journey of one canary from the Harz Mountains; he works in a silver mine and sings at night until being sold to a bird dealer, who takes him on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean with 188 other canaries: “The light looks gray under the canvas cover. They can hear the gravel under the dealer’s boots.” Mixed-media illustrations by Klever are richly colored and have a fantastical, folkloric feel, following the gently expressive, bright yellow bird. While younger readers may find the dense paragraphs less appealing, older children partial to illustrated animal-centered fiction will find much to appreciate. Back matter includes detailed notes on the history of canaries. Ages 6–10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Birds: Explore Their Extraordinary World

Miranda Krestovnikoff, illus. by Angela Harding. Bloomsbury, $23.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0529-3

In an introduction and 14 sections, including “Birds of prey,” “Flightless birds,” “Migration,” “Birdsong,” and “Urban birds,” wildlife expert Krestovnikoff presents a comprehensive overview of dinosaurs’ feathery descendants. Told in approachable prose, each section pinpoints facts that young readers will find interesting, including fastest species, impressive features, and “very unusual adaptations.” For example, about vultures’ bald necks, “this might not look very appealing, but it’s thought that the lack of feathers is helpful when they thrust their necks deep inside carcasses to feed, as any feathers would get caked in blood.” Boldface subheadings further organize chapters, spotlighting details about certain species, including grebes, great bustards, and bowerbirds. Stunning linocuts by fine artist Harding offer textured, intricate illustrations of many bird types, rendered in a naturalistic palette. This well-designed resource will prove a good gift for budding avian enthusiasts or anyone who appreciates nature trivia. Ages 6–9. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Little Loon Finds His Voice

Yvonne Pearson, illus. by Regina Shklovsky. Collective Book Studio, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-951412-33-3

In this endearing picture book, Little Loon desires nothing more than to emulate Papa’s long and strong calls—a tremolo, wail, hoot, and yodel—whereas Little Loon only makes peeps and squeaks. Employing the refrain “Papa’s call was long./ His call was strong./ It echoed on the water,” Pearson presents a number of situations in which Papa’s calls serve to protect Mama and Little Loon. Lyrical prose follows Little Loon’s growth: “Until one day, as the sun tipped over the trees, Little Loon danced upon the water, flapped his wings, and rose through the crisp air.” Onomatopoeia is conveyed in engaging typography, while Shklovsky contributes sweetly expressive, intricate watercolor and pencil illustrations in a soft palette, employing captivating angles and dynamic spreads to hold readers’ attention. This illuminating tale simultaneously serves as a primer on the loon and a satisfying, well-paced chronicle of progress. Back matter includes more information about loons. Ages 5–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Chicken Talk Around the World

Carole Lexa Schaefer, illus. by Pierr Morgan. Little Bigfoot, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-63217-291-4

Six grandmothers and their individual chicken farms around the world take the spotlight in this accessible picture book that centers language. Opening on Gram’s U.S. farm in Walla Walla, Wash., Schaefer subsequently leads readers through farms in Mexico City; “a small village in Kenya”; Japan’s Honshu Island; Bihar, India; and Bordeaux, France, imparting “chicken talk” in the respective language of each country. “And as they search around for grubs and grain—voila! (vwah-LA)—you hear: Clou, clou./ Clou-ee!/... Chicken talk in French.” Textured strokes and sunny hues by Morgan depict the grandmas, abuelas, obachans, and more as gently smiling figures against distinct landscapes. Young readers will enjoy learning how chicken onomatopoeia differs across languages, as well as the various names for grandmothers, in this simple yet educational story that encourages the learning of language and culture through shared experience. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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How to Make a Bird

Meg McKinlay, illus. by Matt Ottley. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1526-7

An elegant, confident voice narrates this gently uncanny second-person-perspective book, following a brown-haired, light-skinned child who builds a bird from scraps, watches it come alive, and sets it free. Living apparently alone in a haphazard, Studio Ghibli–esque building atop Dalí-like legs, the child gathers things into a basket from the beach below as the narrator relays the steps: collecting bones; smoothing feathers over them; and giving the bird a heart, extremities, a song. McKinlay’s tone is stately, the pace deliciously deliberate—“But when you see it sitting,/ cold as a statue, you will know/ that there is more to a bird than/ these things you have given it”—allowing space for readers to savor Ottley’s luminous pigmented ink illustrations, which reveal extratextual details, for example about the child’s bird-making materials. A beautiful rumination on creating. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Bird House

Blanca Gómez. Abrams, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4408-2

A loving intergenerational relationship between a light brown–skinned narrator and their abuela is the heartening center of this tender narrative by author-illustrator Gómez. When the pair find an injured yellow bird in the winter, they nurse it back to health, keeping it indoors in a domed cage as it heals, and then release it into the city skies. But a special guest awaits in the spring—as does a surprise that Abuela has built just for the occasion. Abuela’s gentle wisdom takes center stage (“You are cured now, little bird, you have to fly free”) amid spare prose (“Snow melted into spring”). Detailed, richly colored paper collage and digital illustrations highlight appealing paper textures, lending dimension to domestic spreads featuring dot-eyed humans. A refreshing ending imparts a message of the significance of natural preservation and respecting animals’ agency. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Bird Boy

Matthew Burgess, illus. by Shahrzad Maydani. Knopf, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-984893-77-2

In this gentle narrative by Burgess, Nico, a smiling, dot-eyed Black child, does not quite fit in with his new classmates. Nico prefers “watching the insects/ crossing a crack in the blacktop/ like climbers over a mountain pass” to engaging in sports or “standing in huddles, whispering”; when his quiet nature attracts birds, his classmates quickly brand him “Bird Boy” as an insult. Nico initially feels the sting of the moniker before rising above, imagining himself as a variety of avian creatures in different environments: a penguin, a hummingbird, a pelican. And eventually, two classmates warm to Nico’s free-spirited ways. Colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor art mingle in sweet illustrations by Maydani, featuring mostly children of color and a softly colored, layered world. Any reader who has ever felt left out will cheer for Nico as he shows he can be “both a bird and completely, delightfully himself.” Ages 4–8. (July)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Crowbar: The Smartest Bird in the World

Jean Craighead George, with Luke and Twig George, illus. by Wendell Minor. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-000257-2

Penned by late Newbery Medalist Jean Craighead George and adapted by her children, this picture book follows the family’s real experience of rescuing and raising a baby crow foundling they named Crowbar. Narrated by a pale redheaded child, the tale follows the corvid as he learns human speech, steals food and shiny objects, and uses tools—dismantling Grandpa’s dismissive expectations of crows’ abilities along the way—before joining up with a murder. In straightforward, dialogue-heavy prose (“Mom gave me a book about bird communication. I learned that crows speak to each other in their own language”), the George siblings relay how the child protagonist works to take care of and teach Crowbar, seamlessly incorporating facts about crows. Minor’s art, done in graphite and gouache and enhanced digitally, offers realistic, meticulous snapshots of the crow and family, forming a tender interspecies familial portrait. Back matter includes more about crows, with a list of additional resources. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Bird Show

Susan Stockdale. Peachtree, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68263-128-7

In spirited rhymes, author-illustrator Stockdale introduces 18 birds from around the world, showcasing broad variations found across nature by describing the birds’ daily “fashion show.” Simple couplets boast bouncy metaphors that compare feathered looks to items of human clothing and accessories, relayed through the first-person perspective of each fowl: “I flaunt a full skirt/ of milky-white lace,” reads a spread featuring the Great Egret, followed by a page showing the Yellow-breasted Chat (“My apron is yellow”) and another featuring the Superb-Bird-of-Paradise (“my dress has a face”). Sharp, streamlined illustrations clearly depict each bird and its distinctive plumage alongside thick, colorful borders and spare prose in a book that will surely appeal to the littlest bird watchers—and fashion designers. Back matter includes a guide to each of the birds pictured, including their native habitats, as well as a seek-and-find for the birds’ patterns. Ages 2–6. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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This Book Is Feminist

Jamia Wilson, illus. by Aurelia Durand. Frances Lincoln, $14.99 paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-7112-5641-5

Billed as an “intersectional primer for next-gen changemakers,” this approachable volume is packed with valuable information to enrich readers’ understanding of the topic, subvert stereotypes, and “acknowledge that identities, experiences, histories, and resources impact our focus and the vantage point that guides our ideas and actions.” Throughout, Wilson gives historical context and statistics, highlights past and contemporary changemakers of various backgrounds and experiences, and defines ideas central to feminist worldviews, while using her own experiences to ground the information, offer insight, and demonstrate personal examples of privilege and growth. Smartly paired with Durand’s bright, bold illustrations, which reinforce the text’s welcoming, inclusive tone, the volume skillfully handles topics including identity, justice, education, money, power, and health, then takes things one step further, providing readers with open-ended reflection questions framed as calls to action (“What does justice look and feel like to you?”). Further resources and examples of activists help drive home the message that young people can be involved, and indeed—that “the revolution will be youth innovated.” Thoughtfully designed and compiled, this guide provides readers new to intersectional feminism with an easily referenced and contextualizing guide. Ages 11–15. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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