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Monday, May 12, 2014

Bird Book 2


Every piece of art created by Steve Jenkins makes me want a sharp scissor and a collection of unique papers. In my mind, I imagine creating collages like his. His layers, colors, textures, and compositions transform paper into life-like birds in Jennifer Ward's new book Mama Built a Little Nest. Even the bird's eyes seem to be looking at me, that tiny bit of white reflected in them. 

The rhyming text tracks the nests built by various bird mothers. The woodpecker taps into a tree trunk. The hummingbird makes a tiny nest of moss that will stretch to hold her young. Some birds inhabit the nests built by other mother birds. Others make a scrape along the side of a cliff. The male cactus wren even makes multiple nests in hopes of attracting an interested female! 

I learned about so many different nests and enjoyed the small captions that provided additional information. The technique of the weaverbirds is admirable. The floating nests of the grebes are attached - or anchored - to plants. Swiftlets (a bird I had never known until this book!) make a nest that is edible, eaten as bird's nest soup in China. Her author's note tells more about nests and provides resources for learning additional facts.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bird Book 1


One of the things I love about walking and running in the early morning hours is the chance to hear bird songs. With 20+ years of time on the paths, my bird-call identification skills have improved. I wish I had started honing my skills earlier! 

Young readers can start early with Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?, a new book by Rita Gray. Each line of the rhyming text is followed by an onomatopoeic bird song...chiddik, chiddik for the sparrow, ee-oh-lay ee-oh-lay for the wood thrush. All the while, the narrators are longing to hear the sound of the nesting bird, the robin. At the end of the book, "A Word with the Bird" provides readers with an interview with the mother robin, revealing details about her nesting habits and bird song. Clever.

The artwork by Kennard Pak is lovely, though I wish I knew more about the "digital media" used with the watercolor. The birds are sharp and appear to reflect their calls in their personalities. The landscapes - especially the house at night - are vividly engaging. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Under the Egg


I have a passion for art history, something I did not recognize as a young person but which has developed over time. The tip should have been my love of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (and that it was published in the year I was born). So, I was anxious to read Under the Egg, the debut novel by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. 

It begins with a flashback. "Look under the egg," says Jack, a former security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "There's a letter," Theodora Tenpenny's grandfather tells her as he lays dying. "And a treasure." Then he adds, "Before it's too late."

Theo and Jack had a daily ritual under the egg, the painting of an egg, that is. They would select the most perfect egg from those laid by their hens and set it in a place of honor: a ceramic bowl made by Theo's grandmother. Until the next morning, the egg would sit under the painting, "it's only job to echo the painting above it." After searching all around their messy dwelling, Theo accidentally spills rubbing alcohol over the surface of the egg canvas. She swipes and dabs at the paint until her heart sinks. "I could just make out - under the paint that was once that everlasting egg - a bird in flight." 

And thus begins the mystery and extended art history lesson that includes a new friend named Bhodi, connections with unlikely experts (like Sanjiv, the nut vendor), a few excellent librarians, an in-depth study of Raphael, odd encounters with the strange French neighbor, and revelations about Jack that Theo never in a million years would have thought possible. Loved it.