Friday, December 7, 2018

These Books are for the Birds!

The annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count is starting next week. Here's two books to inspire young readers - and potential bird-counting citizen scientists.

themes: nature, birds, conservation

Finding a Dove for Gramps
by Lisa J. Amstutz; illus. by Maria Luisa Di Gravio
32 pages; ages 5-7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2018

Mom and I slip silently out the door. Today we're going to count birds.

It's just Jay and his mom this year, because Gramps has "flown south" for the winter. They've got everything they need: woolly caps, bird guides, binoculars, and a clipboard.

What I like about this book: Lisa Amstutz plunks us right into a bird count. You can almost hear the snow crunching underfoot, the calls of chickadees and jays, the rat-tat-tat of woodpeckers drumming on a tree.  You can almost see that flash of yellow (kinglet) and a tufted titmouse "all dressed up in his suit and top hat." You can feel your toes freeze and, at the end, the warmth of a mug of hot cocoa.

I like how she sneaks in one brief sentence connecting Jay and mom's activities with how scientists will use the data.  Most of that info is at the back where there is plenty of Back Matter! There is more information about the Christmas Bird Count, and how to join plus a bird count check list you can copy and take outside when you do your own bird walks.

And there is the search for the dove.

Counting Birds, the idea that helped save our feathered friends
by Heidi Stemple; illus. by Clover Robin
32 pages; ages 4-8
Seagrass Press (Quarto), 2018

Frank Chapman loved birds.

He worked at a museum. and wrote books and articles about birds. He even started a magazine dedicated to birds. But not everyone cared about conservation. One Christmas tradition was to hold a bird competition, where hunters counted how many birds they shot. The winning team was the one that bagged the most birds.

Frank had a different idea: count the birds without shooting them.

What I like about this book: This book is like a field trip that starts at Frank Chapman's home and ends with counting birds in the field. Clover Robin's collage/cut-paper artwork pays incredible attention to detail. And of course there is Back Matter! You can learn more about Frank Chapman and how to get involved in the Christmas Bird Count and other birdy citizen scientist projects. And Heidi Stemple shares her personal story of owling and bird counting.

Beyond the Books:

Get involved in the Christmas Bird Count! Details are on the Audubon website. If the holidays are too busy for you, check out the Great Backyard Bird Count (on President's Day in February) or FeederWatch, which you can do on your own schedule. All of these provide data that tell scientists how birds are doing, so they can help protect birds.

Make a paper plate bird mask (directions here). For wings, keep it simple: pin streamers of ribbon or crepe paper to sleeves.

Watch winter birds hanging out in your back yard or neighborhood. Here's a list of 40 birds you might see, and here's the Feederwatch list of 100 common feeder birds you might see.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. We'll join Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website - after the Holiday Story Contest is finished. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. I had never known about bird counting until I read about it on your blog. Both these books sound great. I will check them out. Thanks.

    1. Maybe they'll inspire families to get involved in watching winter birds!