Monday, August 19, 2019

My Happy Year by E. Bluebird by Paul Meisel

Paul Meisel's first Nature Diary, about praying mantises, My Awesome Summer was hilarious and informative. Well, I thought it was hilarious anyways. Who hasn't dreamed about eating a sibling or two when hunger pangs strike?

A new title joins the series featuring bluebirds. The end pages, front and back, contain in-depth information about the Eastern bluebird, their habits, behavior, status, and a glossary of terms. There are also some simple resources.

The story itself works equally well as a read-aloud and an easy reader, unsurprisingly since Meisel is a Geisel Honor winner and has written a number of excellent easy readers. The story begins with E. Bluebird, naked, blind, with just a few tufts of feathers, stretching her body up for food. Day after day, she eats bugs and grows feathers with her three fellow chicks. Mom takes out their poop sack, keeps feeding them, and warms them with her body until they get feathers. Eventually, her fellow chicks fledge and she herself finally make the leap.

Still an immature bird, she follows her family south, eating bugs along the way. Arriving in the south, there are cats and other dangers, but also plenty of bugs. In March they return home. Now an adult, she finds a mate, a house, and lays her own eggs.

Meisel's paintings are lovely, showing a wealth of insect life, birds, and greenery in the bluebirds' habitats. The most outstanding thing to me, however, is that in both nature diaries he has focused on the female's life cycle. Stop and think about how many books about animals focus on the flashier of the pair - usually the male - or a sentimental version of the "mother love" type of story, or feel like they read from the male perspective. I enjoyed not having to consciously remember to change genders to add a little diversity to the read-alouds.

Verdict: Informative and humorous, this is an excellent addition to storytime read-alouds and nonfiction picture books. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823438372; Published March 2019 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

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