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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why, written and illustrated by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"A Palm Cockatoo is a regular one-man hard-rock band. He whistles and bobs his head. Then he breaks off a stick to drum against a tree. The message is clear to other males, "Stay away! This is MY tree.""

Kids with an interest in ornithology will love this new book by Lita Judge. It introduces more than twenty birds in clear and accessible text that gives useful information about many aspects of a bird's way of communicating.  Most of those included will be familiar to its young audience if they have an earlier association with birding or bird books. Others are from distant parts of the world, with similar ways of making their voices heard.

These beautifully rendered birds are shown sending messages by voice, plumage display and other means of letting their intentions be known. They woo their mates, keep themselves and their young safe in a variety of ways, and offer gentle encouragement as their fledglings learn to take to the skies under their own power. I went back again and again to read the research shared.

There are two spreads for each pair...the first one showing some way that birds communicate with and to each other while the other gives meaning and offers more examples of each type of behavior. Her artwork makes clear each bird's meaning and adds humor to our understanding. The cover is a prime example of the appeal and invites us in with great delight.  There is plenty of white space, and that allows a close, personal look at many species, often male and female alongside each other. The artist's attention to detail and obvious careful research makes this a book that will find a welcome place in both home and school libraries.

The beautiful colors, the expressive movements and the methods of communication used in such variety make this an exemplary book for young researchers and offers a useful format for presentation. A picture glossary clearly describes the birds that Lita Judge has chosen to include for our enlightenment and entertainment. It proves most useful to children who read it and their parents.

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