________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number XI . . . . August 25, 1995

The Kids Canadian Bird Book

Pamela Hackman. Illustrated by Heather Collins.
Toronto: Kids Can Press, Year. 32pp, cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 1-55074-196-9.

Subject Heading:
Birds-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1 - 6 / Ages 6 - 11.
Review by Sylvia Smith and Evan Thornton.

This is the latest instalment in the "Kids Canadian" series from Kids Can Press. From the same writing/illustrating team as the Kids Canadian Tree Book, it sets out to provide children aged seven to eleven with an introduction to birds.

The goal is laudable. Encouraging kids' natural curiosity about any sort of wildlife is a sensible starting place to begin educating about the environment, and birds are accessible even for city kids who can't get away to the cottage or a campsite.

The pleasing layout smoothly takes the reader through topics including bird feeding, bird families, birds in winter, and migration -- and pops in quick facts on "amazing birds," like the Calliope Hummingbird, the little bird that's the same length as a stick of gum.

Taken as a whole, however, this book doesn't quite hit the mark.

The most captivating thing about bird watching is that it is actually like a treasure hunt, and one you get better at the more you find out about what you are looking for. The three hundred-or-so bird species most provinces have to offer the bird watcher provide years of surprises and exiting firsts, the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of the defendable sighting. It's ideal for the type of young person that likes keeping lists, or finding answers to tricky questions. This book doesn't really ever speak to this kind of kid.

Though well meant, The Kids Canadian Bird Book seems to treat birds as just another topic to chug through with a combination of workmanlike text and drawings that falls short of the current standard in bird illustration. The same style of illustration that worked well in the Tree instalment of the series renders the species of some of the smaller songbirds difficult to identify, although to be fair, larger birds such as herons and gannets are done well.

Some advice the book gives needs a word of caution. At one point the author suggests that loons can be attracted by playing tapes of other loons calling. This technique has been much abused in certain areas and is nowadays usually discouraged, as it can disturb breeding birds and cause them to abandon their nests (it's akin to someone standing outside your window at night with a megaphone, calling your name until you go crazy). Loons in particular are very susceptible to such disturbance.

Although it's not specifically Canadian, for an extra five dollars you could buy Peterson's Introduction to Birds. It's a better investment for curious young people, and unlike this book, the Peterson will fit in a child's coat pocket when they are out bird-watching.

Recommended with reservations.

Sylvia Smith is a parent and teacher; Evan Thornton is a parent and bird-watcher. They live in Ottawa.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364