Monday, September 3, 2018

Belle's Journey by Rob Bierregaard, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

This is the first children's book written by scientist Rob Bierregaard, but it's an excellent effort, not dumbing down the material nor making it too fanciful. After an introduction, explaining his work with ospreys, Bierregaard (Dr. B.) tells the story of a young osprey named Belle. After her parents' mate and raise their brood, Belle is tagged by Dr. B. and a colleague with a transmitter. Some local children become interested and follow along on her journey as she slowly explores her world on the coast in Martha's Vineyard and then sets out on her long journey - all the way down to South America. After many adventures, some imagined, some real, Belle arrives at her destination and spends the next few seasons maturing. Finally, she returns to her birthplace and Dr. B. imagines the new family she will raise.

Garchinsky's watercolor and crayon illustrations add color and depth to the story, while expanding the imaginative aspect of the tale. Although Dr. B. did not personally see all the events of Belle's journey, as he explains in the introduction, these are things that many migrating ospreys encounter and Belle might be likely to have experienced. The real-life Belle had not yet mated, but the imagined courtship and nest-building is typical of ospreys.

The back matter includes a discussion of the anatomy and behavior of ospreys, recommendations for dealing with injured wildlife, and more resources to find out about ospreys and other birds.

Verdict: This reminded me somewhat of narrative nonfiction of my youth, following a single animal through a cycle of their life. However, it's thoroughly modern in that it refrains from anthropomorphizing Belle and Bierregaard is clear about which parts of the journey apply to the "real" Belle, which are extrapolated from her transmitter, and which are actual events that happened to her. Readers who enjoy narratives and also have a strong interest in animals will be interested in picking up this book. Hand to fans of Jean Craighead George and Jim Arnosky.

ISBN: 9781580897921; Published 2018 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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