Monday, October 14, 2019

Bird count by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

This book celebrates a unique holiday tradition - a Christmas bird count! Narrated by Ava, it explains how citizen science works in real life.

Ava, who has brown skin and reddish brown hair, eagerly wakes her mom up early on a winter Sunday for the Christmas Bird Count. Her mom, with the same brown skin and short, brown hair, sleepily joins her in getting dressed for the cold weather. They meet up with Big Al, the team leader, who is white with a red beard. Big Al reminds Ava of the rules, "Count every bird you see or hear...Make sure at least two people see or hear it. And don't count any bird twice." He also reminds her that her most important tools are her "eyes and ears."

They're off and Ava gets to take the tally for the first time! As they drive through and around town, they hear owls, see chickadees and sparrows, watch geese flying over, recognize some birds by their flight patterns and others by their songs. They visit the marsh and see ducks and herons, then break for lunch. They visit neighborhood feeders, investigate a report of an ovenbird, and see the geese again - they don't count this time! Finally, the mockingbird and raven that Ava heard and saw in the beginning come back and this time they count, since Big Al and her mom both see them.

The day ends with a party around a bonfire and they turn in their tally to the circle chief, who reports for all the teams, a woman with brown skin and long, dark brown hair. Back matter includes a snippet about each bird featured in the book, an author's note, and some resources for birdwatching and learning more about birds.

Coleman's illustrations are full of warm colors and interesting textures. They look like a combination of collage and colored pencil, although they were rendered digitally. The birds are all easily identifiable and the depiction of a small, rural town is very nice. Some things that I especially appreciated about this book was showing women, and people of color, participating in outdoor activities in a rural area (not all people of color live in urban centers!) and it tickled my fancy that the girl had a "regular" name. I can think of about five Ava's her age or a little younger right off the bat and I've had kids complain before about the "weird" names kids get in books!

Verdict: A fun and refreshing look at a unique outdoor activity. Hopefully this will inspire readers to participate in their own bird count or just to spend more time outdoors using their eyes and ears.

ISBN: 9781561459544; Published October 2019 by Peachtree; F&G provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

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