CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 4. . . . October 18, 2002
This little book defies categorization: is it a picture book that presents lots of information in a non-narrative way, or is it a nonfiction text that is arranged in rhyming, sometimes lyrical, sets of questions and answers? This blurring may mean that it gets overlooked, which would be a shame.
Though the author, Margaret Carney, is an avid Canadian naturalist and writes a weekly newspaper nature column, the birds featured will be new to most readers (certainly this one). Not birds to be seen in your backyard, these are birds that live everywhere from beaches to the desert and from Chile to the Arctic. A page at the back gives an additional useful paragraph of information on each of these eclectic mix of birds, ranging from turkey vultures to lyrebirds (which I learned are found only in the Australian rain forest).
Carney manages, with the help of illustrator Melanie Watt, to convey a sense of context and setting in very little text. Watt's illustrations are bold double page spreads. The reader must lift a flap to reveal the answer to each question and the rest of the panorama resulting in a stunning triple spread. The illustrations, done in striking acrylics, are simple and bright while still realistic. Watt's use of colour and detail is terrific.
Not all questions are romantic and lyrical -- the turkey vultures are "sniffing the wind for the scent of the dead," a new concept for my five-year-old. The roadrunner grinds its food -- tarantulas, rattlesnakes, beetles and lizards -- in its gizzard. The content and language seem most suitable for a young naturalist of six or seven as the language seems a bit too young for older readers.
The book's theme and additional information make it useful as classroom support, though its design might not be up to readings by many hands.
Overall, this is a book that should not be overlooked merely because it doesn't fit into any conventional category.
Liz Greenaway has worked in publishing and bookselling and is now at home with small children in Edmonton, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.