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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Robins! How They Grow Up.Written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2017. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"One day, when Mom is away, a squirrel invades our nest! Luckily, Mom discovers him! Dad pursues him into the woods, pecking at his behind. But only three eggs remain. Mom sits on those three eggs for thirteen days. Then the first one she laid begins to crack.."

I like to think Ms. Christelow's 'teenage' robins, or robins similar to them, have taken up residence in my backyard. Certainly, their parents have. The nest they have used over the past few summers has been bolstered, and I see them keeping watch over its construction almost every day as I spend time in the warmth of
the back porch.

The 'teenagers' provide us with a plethora of asides about robins, while the author shares careful and considered data concerning nesting, caring for the eggs and chicks, their food, the dangers they face, fledging and even migration. It is amazing how much information is packed into this book's pages, all of it feeling accessible and engaging.

With each new fact presented the 'teen' robins add context.

"Mom sits on her eggs, keeping them
warm so baby birds will grow inside. She
turns the eggs often so the temperature stays
even - otherwise the babies might stick to
the shell!"

"She warmed
the eggs against
a patch of skin
on her belly."  

"Her brood patch."

As they chat, we watch and learn. From spring to fall, the author presents a concise abundance of data that is endlessly interesting. She lets us know that life is not always safe and secure for the eggs or the little chicks. There are dangers present in a world where predators are always on the lookout for food.
I will admit to surprise at some of the information shared. Their first two weeks following the hatch are astonishing.

"Over two weeks, we eat about 350 insects and fourteen feet of worms - each! All that food makes us grow quickly, We're almost as big as Mom and Dad!

The art is perfect for the text ... full of carefully drawn illustrations presented in a mix of form. Some are three-quarter spreads, some are side by side panels showing movement and change, some show sequences of action; all are accompanied by the teens and their speech balloons in marginal white space, adding accurate and additional info. It is a book about birth, chronological growth and development, and magical moments. It is created with a sense of fun, as well as with care and concern for this harbinger of spring. It deserves a place on every bookshelf!

An author's note, a glossary, and a question-and-answer provide final appreciated tidbits. If a reader wants to know more - is there more to know? - a list of resources is also there.

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