I’ve had Jim Arnosky’s Thunder Birds: Nature’s Flying Predators in my to-be-reviewed stack for a while; in fact, it has gone back to the library once and been re-shelved since I first read it, and I’ve found it and re-checked it out again, so badly did I want to feature it here at Hope Is the Word. When it was short-listed in the nonfiction picture book category of the Cybils, I decided to move it to the top of the stack.
Obviously, I love this book. Why do I love it so much? Well, at first glance at the cover, aren’t you totally taken in by the gorgeous illustration? Look at that Osprey on the cover! Do you need a closer look? Here:
I don’t think I’ll be taking this fellow’s lunch, how about you? Turning the book over reveals most of the Ospey’s outstretched wing. Opening the book to the two-page spread (plus a fold-out, making it a three-page spread) entitled “Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons” will reveal a duplicate of this picture, drawn to scale, and a note that the Osprey has a wingspan of 64 inches. (There’s a reason why this bird only has one wing extended!) We also learn that the Osprey is also called the Fish Hawk and that in appearance it is similar in both flight silhouette and body size to a hawk, but its wingspan rivals that of an eagle! These wings are designed to help it lift its prey out of the water where it can be eaten elsewhere. Magnificent!
The table of contents reveals that Arnosky gets up-close and personal with the following birds of prey: eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, herons, egrets, pelicans, loon, cormorants, and gannets. There are four pages of fold-outs, which makes it possible for the gorgeous illustrations in this book to more closely show the size and majesty of these birds. Each section (similar birds are grouped together) is organized with a page of text, which includes illustrative diagrams like flight silhouettes or detailed drawings of the birds’ talons and a facing page with a representative illustration. Folding out the page extensions reveals more illustrations, many of which are drawn to scale. Readers will truly get a bird’s eye view (ha!) of the size and appearance of these creatures which are often so difficult to really get a good look at.
Arnosky’s love and appreciation for these aeriel assailants comes through in both his gorgeous acrylic and white chalk pencil illustrations and his awe-filled text. His introduction relates his and his wife’s quest to visit many, many places where they could observe and learn more about these birds. He says that he wants to readers to “see the same light [he and his wife] saw in their wild eyes.” I’d say he accomplished his goal! (Sterling, 2011)
Thanks in part to Carrie, I’ve gained a real appreciation for Jim Arnosky’s nature books. I’ve reviewed the following of his books here at Hope Is the Word:
- All About Turtles
- At This Very Moment
- Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Trees (review at bottom of post)
He is obviously a prolific and well-loved author, but Thunder Birds is my favorite of his books yet. Any animal-loving child or adult will appreciate this gorgeously illustrated and informative book. Highly, highly recommended! (Sterling, 2011)
I have developed quite an interest in birds over the past few years, and my interest is rubbing off on my children. 🙂 Our last week of school before Christmas break, we were driving home from a Christmas party when I saw a hawk on an electrical line, turned the van around, and drove back to get a better look at it. That very same week, not three days later, we were driving home from yet another Christmas party (it was a busy week!) when I saw another hawk, this time just as it was landing on the ledge of a billboard. I proceeded to turn the van around and find a place to park so I could get out of the van to try to snap a picture.
The graceful stretch of these magnificent birds’ wings never fails to catch my eye. I feel triply blessed that we saw another bird (or perhaps the same one?) yesterday in the same location as the first one we noticed. Thunder Birds provided more inspiration and information for my own growing body of knowledge about these hunters of the skies.
Reviews elsewhere and other links:
Review by Dawn at 5 Minutes for Books (She nominated the title for the Cybils!)
Thunder Birds first caught my attention when it was nominated in the nonfiction picture book category of the Cybils. I hoped it would be shortlisted , and lo and behold, it was! I’m going to go ahead and say now that I hope it or Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins wins. I think Jim Arnosky is surely due some recognition for not only his gorgeous illustrations (which really are lovely, so if you have art-loving children, take note) but also for his informational prose which communicate such love and respect for the natural world. I think he’s due a Caldecott by now, surely. 🙂
I’m linking this post up to Nonfiction Monday, which is hosted this week at Great Kid Books.