Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore
Illustrator:  Susan L. Roth 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lee & Low Books, 2013   ISBN: 978-1620140048

Long ago the island of Puerto Rico was covered with dense, lush forests, which were filled with thousands upon thousands of colorful parrots. The birds shared their beautiful island home with gorgeous orchids, kapok trees, tree frogs, iguanas, and many other plants and animals.

   Then, around 5000 BCE, humans came to the island, paddling from the south in their ocean-going canoes. The humans planted gardens of fruits and vegetables and they build houses. In 800 CE another wave of settlers came to the island and they gave the parrots a name, iguaca, and they hunted the parrots for food and also kept them as pets.

   After Christopher Columbus came to the Puerto Rico in 1493, life on the island changed a great deal. Buildings of brick, wood, and stone were built and more forests was cut down to make way for the crops the Spanish settlers planted. Slaves were brought to the island to work in the sugarcane fields.

   Throughout all these waves of changes, and after hurricanes, the parrots kept on raising their chicks and filling the air with the sounds of their cries, but then introduced species such as rats and honeybees were attracted to their nests. The eggs in the nests were eaten by the rats, and the bees took over the nests.  In addition, as more and more forests were cut down, the parrots’ numbers began to drop until, in the late 1930’s, the parrots could only be found in one forest and there were only a few thousand of them left. Unfortunately, another enemy would soon come to the island and this enemy would harm the parrots even more.

   In this splendid book the authors tell the story of Puerto Rico in two ways. We read the story of the parrots, and we also learn about the changes that took place on the island over the centuries.

   Throughout the book the interesting text is accompanied by gorgeous collage artwork that is full of color and texture. At the back of the book readers will find an afterword full of information about how the Puerto Rican parrot was brought back from the brink of extinction.