Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

Jane Yolen
Illustrator:  Jason Stemple 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Boyds Mills Press, 2011   ISBN: 978-1590788301

People of all ages love watching birds. They peer at them through binoculars, take photos of them, and read bird guides and other books to learn all about them. Often bird enthusiasts have all kinds of facts and figures at their fingertips, and they can talk at length about the habits of the birds that they study.

In this exceptional book of poetry, Jane Yolen invites bird lovers to look at birds in a new way. What makes the poems special is that they are full of surprises. Jane uses humor and an uncanny eye for detail to help us see the birds in an altogether more familiar and personal way. For each of the fourteen bird species described, she gives us a poem and some informative text. Her poetry is accompanied by wonderful photos that were taken by Jason Stemple.

Jane begins by telling us about the “Regal Eagle.” When you look at the photo, the bald eagle certainly looks very regal. What many people don’t know is that this “king” is no match for a “mob of crows” that can drive the eagle away “wing to wing.” It would appear that the bald eagle is not all powerful after all.

Later on in the book, there is a haiku for a “Cool Kingfisher.” In the photo, we see a belted kingfisher sitting on a piece of dead wood. The bird does look “cool” because it has something that many people would love to have: the bird has a “blue Mohawk” of feathers that stick up from its head.

The Hooded Merganser’s appearance is also commented on in a poem in which Jane asks, “Is that a marshmallow on your head?” The question is funny, and it is also the kind of thing anyone might wonder as they look at a hooded merganser. The bird does look like it has a marshmallow on its head. In addition is has a distinct “circus clown” look about it with its orange eyes and its odd looking plumage.

The combination of the beautiful photos and Jane Yolen’s creative and intimate poems makes this book of poetry wonderfully accessible for readers of all kinds.