As a bird enthusiast who blogs about paying "Zen attention" to what goes on in nature in our own backyards, I was thrilled to happen upon this great children's book by Annette LeBlanc Cate. "Look Up! Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard" is all about how easy it is to see birds and that by paying just a little attention, we'll see some pretty amazing things about them. Birds are, as Cate notes, "by far, the easiest-to-see of all wild creatures."
In an entertaining and often humorous fashion, Cate introduces us to all the things to look for and at when we see birds in our own backyard. She utilizes, without us even knowing it, the method used by some of the most experienced birders in the world: GISS (pronounced and sometimes spelled JIZZ). GISS is a way of identifying and studying a bird by noting a General Impression of (a bird's) Size and Shape. Cate strongly encourages us to draw the birds as well, to help experience the birds more fully and feel more connected to nature.
Annette Cate wonderfully illustrated the book as well, and it is filled with colorful and cartoonish drawings of the birds (and of herself!) She worked with veteran birder Jim Barton to keep these fun drawings as accurate as possible, still maintaining the birds' general shape, color, and defining characteristics. Check out her acknowledgement page to Jim...I'd say he kept Annette on her toes!
This is a BUSY BUSY book. The pages are filled to the gills with Cate's artwork of talking birds and accompanying text. You really do have to systematically go through each page (or read it a second time) to be sure you haven't missed anything.
The book covers birds' colors, shapes, and behaviors before getting into their finer details, plumage, sound, and habitat. It then delves deeper, into birds' ranges, migration, and classification. I found my attention span waning a bit trying to absorb the busy "Classification Class" page. It was the one section of the book that was perhaps just, as they say, too much information.
But the information about birds and the messages throughout "Look Up!" are spot on. Cate encourages us all to learn about the birds we see everyday, so that we'll be more prepared when we see something different. And although this is described as a children's book (age 8/grade 3 and up), I believe adults will definitely be entertained (and educated) by it as well. I know I was!
Things I especially like:
- Ethical bird-watching behaviors are nicely explained in "Bird-watching Do's...and Don't's!"
- The emphasis on the fact that birds are everywhere to be found and that there's interesting things to see and learn about even the most common birds.
- The "A Rainbow of Color" page is beautiful, showing us some of the reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigos, and violets in the bird world.
- I absolutely love her sense of humor, sprinkled throughout the book through the magic of talking birds.
"Look Up!" is a joy to read and I would love to be able to read it to a child to introduce them to the world of birds that I love so much. The book made me learn and it made me laugh. You just can't ask for much more than that!
LOOK UP! BIRD-WATCHING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Written and Illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Published by Candlewick Press 2013
$15.99 - Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - Saratoga Springs NY
ANNETTE LE BLANC CATE BOOKSIGNING
AND DRAWING ACTIVITY
Saturday September 7, 2013, 11am - 3pm
Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop
3084 Route 50, Suite 1 ~ Saratoga Springs NY
Here's how to get to WBU - Saratoga Springs
In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the author. The book is also sold at a retail shop owned by the reviewer.