Bird Talk by Lita Judge
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Have you ever wondered what all that cheeping, twittering and singing is all about? More importantly, have you thought to encourage the children around you to wonder about that too? Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why (Roaring Brook 2012) is a terrific introduction not only to the fascinating world of bird communication but also to some of the amazing varieties of birds.
The cover of this gorgeous picture book lured me and the focus group right into its pages and even though they are a little older than the intended audience, they were as captivated as I was. Some of the two page spreads focus on just one bird and some feature a group of birds. All have beautiful large illustrations and the birds are drawn with wonderful detail, each variety radiating personality and humor. The white background sets off the colorful drawings and Judge uses a minimal but well chosen text to explain the many types of bird communication. Birds range from the familiar backyard robin to the exotic blue bird of paradise.
We learned a lot in this charming and informative book and I feel as if I’ve been helped to tune into a whole new world. Our favorite pages? I loved the baby wood ducks jumping from their nests and the boys love the owl swooping right at the reader. We also loved the backmatter but I better stop raving and leave Cindy something to say!
Cindy: I knew when I saw this book that it would be a hit with the Rutan residence. They are avid bird watchers. I added an additional grade level of 2-4, though, because while this might be too young for our focus group, they are a sophisticated duo with a nature loving nana that might give them a leg up. The layout is clear and the font large, but the vocabulary is vibrant and may be too much for younger readers on their own–although it will be a fabulous read aloud book. Upper elementary students will benefit from this book as well.
The title might lead you to think that only bird song and chatter is the focus, but Judge explains the many ways that birds “talk” to one another. There is meaning and communication in their strut, dance, tail fanning, wing flapping and even head banging, and other non-verbal “talk.” I love the Blue-Footed Boobies who do not want to be confused with Red-Footed Boobies so they proudly lift their feet to be sure that prospective mates see their beautiful BLUE webbed feet! Yes, the reasons for all the ”bird talk” is presented as well…to attract a mate, to confirm a mate or to decide who gets a break from the nest next:
When a Northern Gannet returns from fishing, she and her mate stand on tiptoe over the next. The one to leave its bill pointing skyward the longest says, “My turn to take off.”
There are of course calls to warn of danger, to find or protect their young, and calls that are mimics of other birds, environmental noises and human speech. Lynn is right, the backmatter is very nice. There are four pages of information about the birds presented in the book with some additional facts, habitat, range and a small drawing. Also included are a glossary and some references, including the link for the fabulous Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Don’t miss this excellent nonfiction for young readers.
Common Core Connections
RI.2.7. Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
After reading and displaying several pages of the book, turn to the next page and ask the students to tell you what they think the birds are communicating in that illustration. Discuss the children’s ideas and then read the text.
After reading the book ask the students if they think birds are the only creatures with nonverbal communication. Talk about nonverbal communication in other species. Ask the students to observe their families that night and have them illustrate a nonverbal communication they observed.
RI.2.5. Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
Before starting to read the text, show the children the glossary and its location in the book. Discuss the purpose of a glossary. After reading a page about the Sage Grouse ask the students about the meaning of the word “territory.” Ask for a volunteer to come forward and locate the word in the glossary and read the definition. Repeat throughout the book.