The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder
The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder
The birds chirp in the tree overhead.
“I love hearing the birds sing,” says Scout.
“Me too,” agrees Daisy. “Which reminds me, I forgot to water my bird feeders today.”
“Water your bird feeders. What do you mean?” asks Scout.
Daisy smiles. “I need to water my bird feeders so that they grow tall and stay healthy.”
“What kind of bird feeders grow?” asks Scout.
The books in “A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery” series are based on episodes from the award-winning CBC Kids program The Gumboot Kids (https://gumbootkids.com/). According to the show’s website, “filmmakers Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford [who are also husband and wife] set out to make the kind of TV show they'd want their children to watch. They combined their love of nature with the yearning they felt to slow down and connect with each other and the natural world in a more meaningful, heart-centered way.”
In the books, the Gumboot Kids are a pair of rubber boot-wearing anthropomorphic mice, friends Scout and Daisy. In each of the titles, one of the friends poses a nature-based mystery that needs to be solved, with that mystery being expressed by the book’s title. One of the mice pair presents the other one with three clues which are to be used in solving the mystery. When the duo put the clues together and come up with what they believe to be the correct solution, they confirm their conclusion by consulting, and quoting from, a library book on the appropriate subject. The two then pause for “a mindful moment” in which they reflect on their experience and, to some degree, generalize their learning. The story portion of the books concludes with one of the Gumboot Kids saying a temporary goodbye to the books’ readers. The final four text pages are evenly divided between “Field Notes” and “Nature Craft”, with the former containing a glossary and/or factual information appropriate to the book’s subject matter. The three-step “Nature Craft” also connects to the book’s subject matter.
As the TV show is a combination of stop-motion and live-action, the books’ full-colour illustrations are most likely stills from the stop-motion created portions of the show. As such, the illustrations are full of details to be examined, and the posed rodent friends do have a real appearance of life to them. The three mystery clues are presented not only via the text but also visually through closeups of sketches one of the friends has made in a field notebook. A strong hint to the mystery’s solution is presented on the books’ covers via an object under a magnifying glass and the caption “LEARN ABOUT”.
In The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder, Daisy presents Scout with the three clues: a garden, the colour yellow and seeds. The answer? A sunflower! One of the “Field Notes” pages provides an image of a sunflower, roots included, and labels and describes the plant’s parts while the other page contains additional factual information about the sunflower, including: “There are almost 70 different varieties of sunflowers.” The “Nature Craft”, which, in this case calls for some adult assistance, is to make some hanging birdseed cookies as a treat for wild birds.
Instead of just passively providing youngsters with science facts, the books in “A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery” actively engage readers in their learning. Overall, this series is an excellent age-appropriate introduction to a number of science-related topics.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.