These four books about four different Australian bird species were written for children but they contain interesting information and beautiful artworks that adults who are reading them aloud to their youngsters will enjoy, too
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These charming children’s books are not actually sold together as a single conservation four-pack for kids, but I think of them this way because they all deal with a variety of conservation issues affecting several of Australia’s many native endangered birds, they follow the same format, and they’re targeted to kids between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. Despite being targeted to young kids, each book ends with an informative three-page summary about the birds targeted to adults, including species distribution maps, and a one-page glossary of some of the more challenging words used in the book.
Overall, the text of each book is readable, interesting and informative, and adults will greatly enjoy reading them aloud to their children, without growing tired of this activity. Although the birds are uniquely Australian, the conservation problems they are faced with are not: I was especially interested to see how these four books introduce children to new ideas and to conservation problem-solving at a grand scale. In the service of accuracy, the books were all fact-checked by scientists working with the birds.
The artwork in each book is simply spectacular: adorable, beautifully colorful and absorbing in their many details. I was especially impressed by the imaginative and delightful way that the songs of various bird species were represented artistically.
These four books are so lavishly illustrated and wonderfully informative that I almost wish I had a few kids to read them aloud to.
I include a brief review of each book along with some individual notes about each so you can decide which one your child might like best — although I suggest buying them all!
Swifty: The Super-fast Parrot (CSIRO Publishing, 2022: Amazon US / Amazon UK) by Stephanie Owen Reeder and illustrated by Astred Hicks.
This is the story of the first year in the life of an individual swift parrot, Swifty. These small critically endangered parrots nest on the island of Tasmania and on smaller nearby islands, where they are confronted with predation of their nests by invasive sugar-gliders and with logging by humans. After Swifty fledges, she accompanies her parents on their journey across the wild and stormy Bass Strait that lies between Tasmania and the Australian mainland, where she then faces other dangers in a human environment. After wintering on the mainland, Swifty returns to nest in cavities in the increasingly scarce Old Growth forests.
On the Trail of the Plains-wanderer: A Precious Australian Bird (CSIRO Publishing, 2022: Amazon US / Amazon UK) by Rohan Cleave and illustrated by Julian Teh.
This book shares information about collaborative conservation work between scientists, aviculturists and farmers to save the critically endangered plains wanderer. These birds are sometimes known as the “Goldilocks bird” for their exacting habitat requirements — they don’t like it too sparse nor too dense. This mostly terrestrial-dwelling bird eats insects and seeds, and nests in tussocks of grass, where they face a variety of terrestrial predators (mostly introduced foxes). The plains wanderer is ancient and evolutionarily unique, representing the only living member of its family. I was especially impressed by the beautiful artwork, particularly the view of these birds from above (back cover.)
The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater (CSIRO Publishing, 2022: Amazon US / Amazon UK) by Coral Vass and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft.
A thought-provoking story about a young male regent honeyeater who forgets his mating song, and how he learns it again. This is an ancient song passed down through countless generations, but now the regent honeyeater population has fallen to critical lows, which means young Regent does not have a species-appropriate song tutor, leaving him attempting to imitate other birds’ songs. Without success.
The central question is will Regent learn his mating call before it’s too late? Or will his ancient song be forgotten forever?
The timeline of human habitat destruction in the book summary is an educational touch.
Swoop (CSIRO Publishing, 2022: Amazon US / Amazon UK) by Nicole Godwin and illustrated by Susannah Crispe.
This is the funniest book of the four, in my opinion. It follows the logic of a magpie couple as they repeatedly swoop down from the trees onto the heads of walkers, bikers and runners who get too close to their nest. In addition to presenting the situation from the birds’ point of view, it is an amusing visual collection of human ingenuity as they seek to protect their heads from magpie attacks. This book was ‘inspired by Gary the magpie, who is one almighty nest protector’. I particularly loved the painting of a magpie investigating the bike helmet at the end of the book (although … the magpie chicks are sooo birdorable!)
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