Monday, July 25, 2022

New Picture Books About Birds, July 2022

Birds is a perennial favorite theme in my homeschool and my story times, and though I'm mostly happy with the tried-and-true titles I use over and over again, I always like to check out new ones when they come out. This month, three Simon & Schuster imprints have new bird-themed picture books of which they so kindly sent me review copies. 

The first one that showed up on my doorstep was Whose Nest is Best? A Lift-the-Flap Book, written by Heidi E.Y. Stemple (daughter of Jane Yolen), illustrated by Gareth Lucas and published by Little Simon. This book highlights the nest-building habits of nine different species of birds, wondering on each page which nest is best. The author ultimately concludes that each nest is the best one for its intended inhabitants. My toddlers like the flaps more than the content, but it is actually a well-done science book for little ones. Young readers get to see the adult bird and learn how the nest is built, then they lift the flap to see the babies and the name of that bird.  My toddlers are two and they are a bit young for this book, but three- and four-year-old listeners will enjoy the opportunity to acquire some new bird knowledge. 

The New Rooster by Rilla Alexander is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and it deals with a language barrier. When Rooster arrives at his new country home and begins the day with "Ockcay away oodleday ooday" (cock-a-doodle-doo in Pig Latin), he is shocked that none of the animals respond. Writing down the message doesn't work, either, but Rooster finds that a community meal transcends all of the languages spoken on the farm and gives him a chance to meet the other animals and learn to communicate with them. This book would be confusing for a child who has never heard of Pig Latin, which makes me think the likely audience skews a bit older than what I normally have in mind for a farm book. I think the concept is fun, but the story feels brief somehow, and I wanted the author to do a bit more with it. The illustrations, which use rubber stamps, ink, and digital collage are bold and eyecatching, but the story doesn't quite live up to the appeal of the front cover.

Finally, Atheneum Books for Young Readers sent me Time to Fly by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. I requested the book based on the author's previous works, which I remembered enjoying. Unfortunately the text of this book suffers in two ways: one, the subject matter - a baby bird who is afraid to leave the nest and must be coaxed by his mother - is cliched and the author didn't do anything new with it and two, the rhyme is awkward and forced, with words chosen simply because they rhyme and not for their strength. The illustrations are pleasant and spring-like, with lots of cool greens and warm browns. The illustrator varies the perspective as well, zooming in and out on the nest as the story progresses. She did all she could with the weak text, but the story isn't really enough to sustain a whole book and the illustrations do make that even clearer. 

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