Tuesday, April 22, 2008


WINGS by Sneed B. Collard III, illustrated by Robin Brickman (Charlesbridge)
The diversity of our fine feathered (and furry and insect) friends is celebrated in this excellent exploration of these mysterious and dreamlike appendages. Excellent informational prose from points of inquiry take us on a first-class non-fiction flight. How fast can wings fly? How slow? How far, and how many? Why? To catch, to flee, to chase, to find mates, to travel, each answer is explained in the context of a particular winged creature. Helpful resources at the back of the book will lead children to continue to take flight on-line, and a glossary of all boldfaced vocabulary throughout the book is provided; this book is never dumbed down. I am so excited to just be learning about this prolific author, with a contagious passion for nature along the lines of children's literature's naturalist legends Jim Arnosky and Steve Jenkins, but I must confess that for all of this book's fine content, I was at first drawn by the stunning papercut illustrations. Readers will be sent into a veritable state of slack-jawed shock at the otherworldly textures this illustrator is able to accomplish with cut paper, from a blowing feather to the curve of a flower petal. This book is a delight for any booklover with an interest in animals, nature or science, and is a solid non-fiction read-aloud for primary grades, always a rare bird. (6 and up)

Also of interest:
In honor of the first robin of spring, which I saw yesterday, here are a few other fine feathered titles to add to your flock:
UNITED TWEETS OF AMERICA: 50 STATE BIRDS, THEIR STORIES, THEIR GLORIES by Hudson Talbott (Putnam) Fans of Laurie Keller's zany SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA will enjoy this collection of true tales of every state bird, beak firmly planted in cheek. Lovely artwork and lots of laughs combined with solid research material make this a perfect spring pick for classroom libraries. (7 and up)
TODAY AT THE BLUEBIRD CAFÉ by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin (McElderberry) "Blue Jay Blues," "Mockingbird Warning," "Mrs. Crow Gets Dressed," "There's a Robin in My Bathroom," don't you just want to read them all? Well, you can! Hooray hooray hooray, this beautiful and engaging verse is matched with creamy pastel watercolors, making it a perfect collection to celebrate both the return of spring and National Poetry Month! (5 and up)
BIRDSONGS by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (McElderberry) Why should finches have all the fun? Join in the cacophony with this onomatopoetic counting book, with bold cut-paper illustration. (4 and up)
And there are two tributes to the red-tailed hawk of Fifth Avenue:
CITY HAWK: THE STORY OF PALE MALE by Megan McCarthy (Simon & Schuster), straightforwardly told for primary audiences, and who can resist those big googly-eyes that are a signature of McCarthy's illustration? (4 and up) And then there is the more detailed PALE MALE: CITIZEN HAWK OF NEW YORK CITY by Janet Schulman, illustrated in how-does-she-do-it gorgeous watercolor and colored pencil by the inimitable Meilo So. (6 and up) Teachers, Read them both and compare the treatment of the same subject by different authors and illustrators!

Shop with Esmé:

Hmmm, I don't know if I could afford to spend more on a bird's house than I spend on my own, but doesn't this prime real estate (above) from Uncommon Goods inspire the crafter in you? As does the "Fairy Tale Dreamcatcher" from OneGoodBumblebee (this would make a fun classroom activity, or Mother's Day gift for kids to make!) and the obscenely priced Songbird Chandelier from Anthropologie? They sell those little felt birdies and flowers at Michael's, people. Sorry to derail the consumer love train, there, but after all, DIY is the new Nordstrom's, dahhhling!

On that note, I love my soaring bird bracelet I got at Erm Originals on Etsy, it goes with everything. She's always got lots of lovely wing-themed jewelry, and in the spirit of the birds, her pieces are are cheep, cheep!

Also on the subject of crafting and birds, take cyber-wing to The Crafty Crow, an egg-ceptional blog featuring kid-friendly art-and-craft inspirations and plenty of pix! I know you will want to bookmark this fabulous resource to visit again and again!

Happy Earth Day, and happy robin-sightings, everyone!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to
support your local bookseller.


teacherninja said...

Oooh, nice. I'm a big Steve Jenkins fan and so happy to see more non-fiction like this. Thanks for the heads up (and link to the illustrator).

Anonymous said...

Esme, thank you so much for the great review of WINGS! "Slack-jawed" is a perfect response to Robin's work. Isn't it incredible? I am fortunate that this is the third project I've been able to do with her, after BEAKS! and ONE NIGHT IN THE CORAL SEA. Seeing her work "live" is even more amazing. Keep up the wonderful writing and reviews. I couldn't agree more with your statement about the importance of reading trade books to children!

Tara Michener said...


I love your blog! It is very informative and a great resource site. Please view my blog and add a comment at:

I am a children's author and would love for you to review my book "Who I Am not what I am" This book embraces self-esteem adn diversity in children.

Tara Michener


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