Dec 19, 2015

More Non-Fiction Fan Talk: About Hummingbirds

The upper midwest (along with much of the country) has experienced a record-breaking warm start to winter. Today, to protest winter's arrival (wind chills below zero, despite the glorious full day of sunshine) let's spend a little time looking into the amazing world of  HUMMINGBIRDS! 
Field guides have been a part of my life since elementary school, because they offer so many of the same benefits as picture books. Kids always love the guides because they are: 

Complete- Concise-Compelling.

Peachtree, 2011
A nonfiction picture book that's been around for several years recently caught my attention. It's a perfect blend of traditional field guides and classic picture books. ABOUT HUMMINGBIRDS: A GUIDE FOR CHILDREN was written and illustrated by the prolific and talented team,  Cathryn P. Sill and John Sill. 
Each spread offers a simple statement of fact on the left page, with small print labels of common names of the varieties of hummingbirds pictured on the right. 
Those illustrations combine the exquisite accuracy of an Audubon-quality field guide with the habitat backgrounds and dramatic actions these little dynamos deserve. 

The afterward reprints each numbered plate in reduced size with extended content on each aspect of hummingbird lives explored page by page. A glossary of the terminology used is readable and age-appropriate. Resources listed include books, websites, and the author's research bibliography.

Young readers will find the detailed but digestible facts intriguing, and the plates merit detailed examination. Both will inspire further readings and research, through the sources provided and, more importantly, through direct observation and field study. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2015
I'll readily admit that I'm a wildlife advocate and that makes me an eager audience for this book and a more recent release. It's a book written for adults that reads like a heart-stopping cliff-hanger: FASTEST THINGS ON WINGS: RESCUING HUMMINGBIRDS IN HOLLYWOOD. 
Author Terry Masear has rescued, raised, and rehabilitated enough hummingbirds to be defined as an expert by any standard. The experiences she shares here are stunningly readable and remarkable. Here's what I had to say about the book when I read it immediately after its release:

This is an astonishingly page-turning read, even for those who are not nature fanatics. It's wonderfully written in language and style while embedding detailed information and technical expertise (as well as ethical standards) into a fluid and comprehensive story.

As someone who spent years doing licensed wildlife rehabilitation I was privileged to rescue and eventually release a single hummingbird, which was as memorable an exeperience as any I've ever had.
The intensity of any seasonal rehabilitation work is reflected in this story, magnified a thousand-plus-fold when the sole objects of that service happen to be hummingbirds. Masseur provides incredible stories, offering a superior example of how nonfiction can be every bit as dramatic and compelling as the best of fiction. 

When winter winds blow, encourage young readers to spend some time in libraries and book stores exploring the shelves of field guides, starting with other titles in the Sills' "About" series on topics such as raptors, arachnids, and rodents. Even the most reluctant readers will find them accessible and intriguing, opening minds to closer observation of the natural world.

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