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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest, written and illustrated by Irene Kelly. Holiday House, Thomas Allen, 2009. $

"Murres are seabirds that lay their eggs on the edges of cliffs...but they don't worry about them rolling off. The eggs are so pointy that they roll in a tight circle if they are nudged. Each egg has its own special pattern, so the parents can always find it."

And that is not the only thing to learn about birds and their nests, as Irene Kelly so deftly assures us in this lovely, detailed account. The birds range from gigantic to teeny, the nests are wonders of nature and the illustrations invite hours of browsing to process the abundance of information shared. There are forty different birds from all corners of the world. Their ability to construct nests that range from sloppy (bald eagle) to architecturally sound mating huts (bowerbird) will astonish readers.

Before beginning, the artist shares an array of materials that birds use: twigs, grass, spider silk, yarn, moss, newspaper, bark...that seems normal. What about paper clips, drinking straws, bottle caps, towels, clothespins, rubber bands? The list goes on. As each page unfolds we are introduced to the chosen bird and their nest building skills are described simply and with accompanying artwork to help us see the results. From building a two storey nest which sports an empty top floor to trick predators into thinking it is abandoned (the yellow-rumped thornbill)to using six thousand sticks to build a nest that can measure six feet square (the hammerkop) the author intrigues her readers and informs us. There is so much to know about the natural world...this adds one more piece to the puzzle and wonder that is nature. In a world map following the text, Irene Kelly places each one of the birds discussed, and then asks us to help birds with their nesting by gathering together materials they might use and leaving them where they can be found.

Aspiring young ornithologists will love it!

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