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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Hummingbird, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Ray. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2019.$22.99 ages 4 and up

"Out on the veranda, everything
is ready: the nectar feeders are
filled and tiny flies buzz in the
bug dispenser. Just after dawn,
the hungry guests arrive for
breakfast. The sisters laugh as
they remember how their daddy
used to say, "Hummingbirds
need meat AND potatoes, same
as we do!"

What a gorgeous book this is. In the beginning, a young girl and her Latina grandmother wait patiently for the ruby-throated  hummingbirds to sip from the bowls they are holding. They know they will soon fly north, just as the granddaughter will. She is boarding a plane for her home in New York City; the hummingbirds are leaving Mexico to fly north, where they will build nests, lay eggs, have their babies, and wait until it is time to return to the warmth of the south once again.

As one such hummingbird spends the night in the rigging of a sailboat, observant listeners will notice the airplane carrying the girl north to her home.

Nicola Davies, a noted zoologist and exceptional nonfiction writer, ups the impact of the story by including her customary additional notes about the hummingbirds. 

"Hummingbirds lose half their body weight when they 
fly north over the Gulf of Mexico in one long trip."

Page turns show the long journey the birds make from the south, all the way to Canada. Along the way, they are noticed by many people, including the granddaughter in Central Park, who finds a reminder that they have been there. Making that special find on the lawn results in a special package being sent to her grandmother with a note of explanation.

Jane Ray uses 'watercolor and watercolor pencil with gold ink' to create the vibrant artwork. Brilliantly colored, and filled with the beauty of nature and the constantly flitting wings of these wondrous birds, it is accompanied by clear and very informative text which makes for a memorable story. Some of the more than 300 species of hummingbirds adorn the endpapers.

Plenty of facts about these tiny gems are provided as the story moves forward. A map that shows their journeys, an introductory note, and a further note in endmatter add appeal. A bibliography and an index are appended.

"Roads, houses, and cities built by humans
mean that there are now fewer places for 
hummingbirds to refuel on their trip."

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