Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

Peggy Thomas
Illustrator:  Laura Jacques 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2011   ISBN: 978-1590787649

When he was a boy, Roger Tory Peterson was sometimes called “Professor Nuts Peterson” because he was a little odd. Instead of playing baseball or hanging out with friends, Roger chose to spend his time observing nature, going off by himself to collect moth cocoons, wildflowers, and empty bird nests.

School did not really excite Roger until one of his teachers, Miss Hornbeck, formed a Junior Audubon Club. During a club field trip, Roger encountered a bird and his experience made him want to “spend his life with birds.” Miss Hornbeck also helped Roger to discover that he loved to draw birds. The problem was, that birds rarely sat still long enough for Roger to capture their likeness. What Roger needed was a camera, and he set about making enough money so that he could purchase one.

When he was fourteen, Roger’s many hours working as a paper boy paid off, and he was finally able to buy his own camera. Carefully, Roger kept notes describing the birds he saw, and with dogged determination he took their pictures as well. Everyone who knew him was sure that he would grow up to become a naturalist.

The problem was that Roger’s family did not have the money to send Roger to college, so Roger took on jobs so that he could save enough money to go to art school. One of these jobs was working as a counselor at a summer camp in Maine. The director of the camp was so impressed with Roger’s teaching abilities, that he invited Roger to teach art and natural history at a school in Boston. Roger taught his students to identify birds by studying their markings, and then he set about writing a book that would help people to identify birds. His intention was to create a book that a layperson could use, and the book he created became the first real field guide about birds to be published in the United States.

As they read this fascinating picture book biography, young readers will come to appreciate what a visionary Roger Tory Peterson was, and what an impact his famous bird field guides has on our understanding of birds. Not only did this man help people to better appreciate birds, but he also contributed to the bird conservation movement.

With colorful illustrations and an engaging text, this is an excellent title to share with a young bird lover or naturalist.

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