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Monday, June 27, 2016

Circle, by Jeannie Baker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $24.00 ages 5 and up

"The flock flies high
above the clouds,
chattering at times
to help stay close together.
Each bird takes a turn
to lead the way.

They follow an ancient,
invisible pathway
for six nights ... "

We meet the young boy before the story begins ... and learn something about him: he is in a wheelchair, he is an interested reader, and he has a wish to fly like the godwits in his book.  Then, on the title page we are told: "In its lifetime a godwit will usually fly farther than the distance from the earth to the moon."

He and his mother visit the beach in time to see a flock of godwits take to the sky. Binoculars in hand, he watches as one particular bird (with white wing patches) joins the others as their lengthy and gruelling journey north begins.

The reader is witness to that flight, watching as the godwits travel for days before making their only stop along the way. Their need to stop is stymied by the loss of habitat that once provided food and safety, making the trip even more exhausting. Success in their search replenishes their bodies and provides needed sustenance for the rest of their migration to the Arctic where finding a mate is the order of the day. Chicks are born ... four of them; only one will survive. As the chick grows, the pair know that the time has come to prepare for the journey back. The chick is left behind to follow at a later time.

Soon, the flock takes to the air once more .. this time there is no rest stop. As they return from the  northern reaches of Alaska to their home on the Australian beach, so does the boy return to the nature reserve that is protected for them ... this time, with crutches and obviously much healed. Both have endured difficulty with courage and resolve.

Lovely text is placed on incredible collages, Ms. Baker's signature artwork. She creates the most wonderful images of the two worlds that nurture the godwits, and everything in between. We get a bird's-eye view for much of the trip, while also seeing their stops from our own perspective. I love reading such books for their informative and intriguing content, and for the new learning. I had no knowledge of the godwit and its incredible migration.

An author's note is a reminder that all living things are connected, and any large-scale changes may threaten what is 'an age-old, wondrous circle of life'. Three websites are included for those readers wanting to know more, as well as a migration map and a list of the other migrating creatures shown in the book.                                          

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