In early April, as Owen and his sister search the hickories, oaks, and dogwoods for returning birds, a huge group of birds leaves the misty mountain slopes of the Yucatan peninsula for the 600-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico to their summer nesting grounds. One of them is a Cerulean warbler. He will lose more than half his body weight even if the journey goes well. Aloft over the vast ocean, the birds encourage each other with squeaky chirps that say, “We are still alive. We can do this.”
Owen’s family watches televised reports of a great storm over the Gulf of Mexico, fearing what it may mean for migrating songbirds. In alternating spreads, we wait and hope with Owen, then struggle through the storm with the warbler.
This moving story with its hopeful ending appeals to us to preserve the things we love. The backmatter includes a North American bird migration map, birding information for kids, and guidance for how native plantings can transform yards into bird and wildlife habitat.
Mr. Collard, a prolific writer whose books often have a scientific bent, is also an avid birder. He and his son have a blog, Father Son Birding, and the book Warblers and Woodpeckers is based on their adventures. In this book, illustrated in soft, nature tinted watercolors, we meet Owen and Nora, who are looking forward to seeing a cerulean warbler in their yard in the spring. They have made their yard an inviting place for the birds to visit, planting native trees and plants so that the birds will have enough insects to eat and places to stay. We also see the migration of the birds from the tropical forests to the US. When a storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico, the children worry that this might cause harm to many of the birds during their travels. Luckily, the cerulean warbler and other birds make it through, and Owen and Nora are able to observe them and take notes in their nature journals. End notes include information on birding, ways to help protect birds, and resource lists that include books and websites.
Like his other excellent titles, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever, and Fire Birds, Mr. Collard uses his talents to combine fiction with lots of information about environmental issues. This picture book is for younger readers than most of his books, but still presents information in a way that is easy to grasp. I'm a big proponent of teaching children about nature from a very young age; I have a bee garden in my library and have worked with the local parks department to donate native trees to the park behind my house. It's good to see a picture book that espouses environmental responsibility in such an engaging way.