Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why
written and illustrated by Lita Judge
2012 (Roaring Brook Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Rasco from RIF
We tell children to flip through the pages of a book to preview and decide if you want to read it. When you open Bird Talk, the spectacular sketches of birds draw you in and make it an easy decision to continue reading. It would be easy to go on and on about Lita Judge's beautiful bird blueprints, but I was equally enthralled by the text. There are several reasons why birds call to one another and Judge provides several examples to illustrate each reason. She starts with mating rituals. Of all the birds featured, the Sage Grouse might be the most extravagant in his mating call. He blows up air sacs on his chest and rubs his wings across them to make a sound to attract females. This reminded me of Tarzan beating his chest. It was kind of touching to read about the Indian Sarus Cranes who perform a ballet together to show that they are mates for life. Other sections focus on nesting duties, strategies for dealing with enemies, encouraging their young, and mimics. I would be remiss not to mention the Scandinavian Fieldfare who dumps scat on crows that try to eat their eggs. This is the very definition of leaving no stone unturned. In the back matter is extra information on each species featured in the book. Included are the habitats and ranges of each bird. It would be great fun to label a map of the world with small stickies that carry the name of a particular bird.
Other than The Polar Express, I can't think of a picture book that is read more often in elementary school classrooms than Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr. Bird Talk would be a perfect nonfiction companion to this book. I also would use Bird Talk with students who are beginning to learn about writing a research report. You can create a table (if you have access to a computer lab or have a set of laptops, have students do this in Word) with qualities about each bird. Categorizing is an important skill for students to learn in this Common Core era. If you are working with younger students, you can create a booklet of birds. Bird Talk is a book where the illustrations get you through the door and the text makes you want to stay awhile. Pick this up for your nonfiction collection.