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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mama Built a Little Nest, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster. 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"Mama built a little nest.
My daddy helped out too.
They placed my egg upon his feet.
That's where I hatched and grew.

The emperor penguin uses a living
nest: the father penguin. The father uses his beak
to roll the mother's egg upon his feet quickly, so it doesn't freeze, and carefully, so it doesn't break."

What a welcome and informative book of nonfiction this is! The fact that Steve Jenkins has created the graceful and detailed artwork is icing on the cake.

Catchy rhymes and gentle rhythms assure interest for the young readers who will share this book. Each stanza introduces a new bird and its nest-building prowess. The predictability of the opening line will soon have little ones helping with the reading. The captioned text that sits alongside Steve Jenkins' carefully constructed collages add interest for parents who are doing the reading, and for older listeners, too. I found it all quite fascinating and informative:

"Mama built a little nest.
Well, actually, she didn't.
She found one that another made,
and then she laid me in it.

Not all birds build nests. The cowbird, whydah, and cuckoo find a nest 
built by another bird species. They lay their eggs in it and fly off, leaving
their eggs in the care of the bird who built the nest."

Jennifer Ward knows birds and happily shares that knowledge with her audience. She does it in a most appealing and informative way. She never overwhelms with text, and  manages to create a book that will be appreciated as nonfiction while feeling a bit like a story meant to be told. There was much here I did not know, and I found myself in awe of these tiny creatures whose innate ability to create the perfect home for their young is so evident.

As you know, if you have read my blog posts before, I am a huge fan of Steve Jenkins' art! He works brilliantly creating collage images that are full of minute details and that have huge appeal for all readers. The colors he has chosen for this book are perfect. Vibrancy in color is evident on some pages, while the mothers who do most of the building are muted as happens in nature.

We are reminded at the conclusion of the text that we, too, have a's cozy and comfortable, and allows for much needed rest at the end of long days. We call it a 'bed'.

The fourteen nests are as varied as their builders, and are sure to inspire readers to find out more about them. To that end, the author adds a note following the book's poetic text, and a list for further learning.

"They produce nests that float, defy gravity, expand, are camouflaged, and that heat or cool. Indeed, these avian architects create the most varied type of home of any wild species, allowing them to live in a diversity of habitats."

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