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Friday, September 20, 2013

Is This Panama? Written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim. OwlKids, 2013. $17.95 ages 8 and up

"But where were all the other warblers? Usually there was somebody foraging for food nearby. Sammy hopped up to the top of the tallest dwarf birch expecting to see someone he knew, but there was no one. Sammy was worried. He didn't know how  to get to Panama by himself."

When Sammy discovers that all of his bird family and friends have gone, he is concerned. It's a long way from Alaska to Panama. In fact, he has no idea where Panama is!

Undeterred, he sets out to get himself from his summer home to a place of rest and warmth for the winter. As he makes his way south, he meets up with others who are also migrating. The ptarmigan has no reason to worry about staying. He is equipped with white replacement feathers that will keep him safe during the long, cold winter, and there is plenty of food. He suggests that Sammy should hurry on his way.  Sammy's next encounter is with a caribou, who is heading toward his winter forest. Panama? Nope, he doesn't know anything about Panama.

Sammy makes a long and meandering journey toward Panama, taking all advice that seems credible, and occasionally accepting a ride to help with the exhaustion. The beautifully illustrated double page spreads will help readers begin to understand the mystery of migration for a variety of species. Sammy is definitely in for the adventure of his short lifetime, and we can't help but wish him well on his quest to find the rest of his flock.

The dangers inherent in such a long trek are carefully considered...enough of the right kind of food, fatigue, recognizing landmarks, predators, weather, city lights, and being off course. He perseveres through all of the challenges presented and eventually, he makes it to Panama. It is worth celebrating! 

Written to help young readers gain knowledge of migration for more than one type of animal, and offering a young, appealing avian narrator to give an account of all he experiences on his journey south, this book will find fans because of its accessible telling and wonderfully realistic collage illustrations. The author adds back matter that includes a map of the regular migratory route taken by warblers comparing it to the route Sammy took, a list of the various migrating species who offered advice and gave aid, and a list of the ways in which animals migrate. 

Another hit for Jan Thornhill.

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