A New Flock of Bird Books for Fledgling Readers

Sarah Harrison Smith on July 13, 2017

How much do we adults really know about the backyard birds we see every day, much less those exotic specimens we spy in zoos? Answer children’s questions about these fascinating creatures with the help of this new flight of bird books, which range from board books for the littlest lap readers to picture books rich with avian information for older kids.

Birds-listen-toListen to the Birds, illustrated by Marion Billet (Ages 1 to 4)

For the very youngest readers, Nosy Crow’s board book series - which includes books with sounds of baby animals, the jungle, and the countryside - has push-sensitive recordings embedded in its pages. Marion Billet’s cheerful artwork engages children’s eyes as the bird songs entertain, and quite possibly educate, their ears. The sounds in this volume are surprisingly realistic; children who listen repeatedly may soon be chirping and twittering along with the birds they hear outside.

Birds-blue-hourThe Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (all ages)

In this visually stunning, large-format picture book from Eerdmans, Isabelle Simler’s illustrations of birds and other creatures glow with almost iridescent colors in blue-hued twilit settings. The excitement of Simler’s pictures is balanced by a calming, contemplative text that describes the animals’ activities as they settle down for the night. The Blue Hour would be perfect for bedtime reading: its lovely images might wing their way into a fortunate child’s dreams. 

Birds-feathers-hairFeathers and Hair, What Animals Wear by Jennifer Ward and Jing Jing Tsong (ages 2 to 7)

“Some animals wear feathers. Some animals wear hair. Some have prickly spines and roam without a care,” begins Jennifer Ward’s short rhyming story. The text leaves plenty of room for discussion with young children, who, seeing Jing Jing Tsong’s bold, brilliantly colored, and detailed illustrations, can guess which creatures are being described. There’s a collage quality to the pictures which may make you think of the work of that king of preschool illustrators, Eric Carle.

Birds-blue-songbirdThe Blue Songbird by Vern Kousky (ages 3 to 7)

Vern Kousky’s charming story follows a little Peep-like bluebird who “left her mother, left her nest, and all she knew and flew off to find her special song.” On her journey, she encounters a crane, a wise old owl, some New York City pigeons, penguins and a crow, each in their own landscape. Returning home, the bluebird discovers she at last has a song of her own – the song of her adventures, and of her love for home. There’s a lesson here for children who need encouragement to stretch their wings, but Kousky’s palette of cool pastels and inky blacks keeps it all from becoming over-sweet.

Birds-birds-make-nestsBirds Make Nests by Michael Garland (ages 4 to 11)

Nests of all kinds, in locations ranging from rustic grasslands to urban windowsills, are the focus of this book by author-illustrator Michael Garland (Fish Had a Wish, Lost Dog, How Many Mice). Garland’s style has the look of 19th century engravings, which is well-suited to minute details of feathers and twigs. His text is simple, but there are higher-level bird facts on the page for readers ready to, say, distinguish between male and female  coloration. Garland’s theme, of nests as a shelter for eggs, and later, fledglings, makes this a particularly child-friendly bird book.

Birds-robinsRobins! How They Grow Up by Eileen Christelow (ages 4 to 11)

Christelow’s cleverly planned book presents a lot of useful information about the life-cycle of robins in a visually appealing and engaging way. Story-board style scenes, sometimes more than one to a page, show robins choosing sites for their nests and raising their young. Two “teenage” robins comment on Mom and Dad’s activities in speech balloons, which gives the book a graphic-novel feel  older kids will appreciate. Most of us see robins all the time; how useful for readers of all ages to know a little more about what they’re doing.



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