Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: In an age of expensive entertainment, the opening sentence of Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard (Candlewick 2013) has a refreshing simplicity:
“You don’t have to go anywhere fancy to watch birds!”
In fact, Cate goes on to assure young readers that all they really need to do is learn to keep quiet and pay attention and the world of birds will open up to them. This helpful guide invites kids to put down their video games and look at the world around them – specifically the birds around them. Cate confides that she wasn’t always a bird-watcher. She decided to do some nature sketching and started to notice the birds “flitting around the edges of her drawings.” She realized she just hadn’t been paying attention and was hooked.
Cate urges readers to sketch what they see to focus their attention and keep a record of the birds they’ve observed. In the next chapters, she addresses a variety of aspects including shape, color, sounds, behaviors and range. The cartoon-style illustrations are very engaging and Cate uses lots of humor that lends the book an informal and reassuring tone. The information is excellent though and readers will come away with a good solid grounding in this wonderful hobby. As a life-long birder, I learned a few things myself and especially loved her description of the types of field guides.
This is not a book to hurry through. All the little sketches and details take time to look at carefully – just like the hobby itself! The older members of the focus group loved this book and I had a hard time getting it away from them to share with Cindy. We’ve been nature watchers as a family but the boys loved the idea of keeping a sketchbook and they are already working on keeping a record of the many birds that come into our winter bird feeder. I’m looking forward to some sketching trips this summer where QUIET will be the order of the day!
Cindy: I was hooked from the humorous cover and end papers with birding do’s and don’t's. Bird watching has always seemed a little intimidating but this book is encouraging and helpful to the beginner. One of my favorite pages is the Rainbow of Color spread with birds placed in their primary color…as throughout the book, the birds’ commentary is humorous but full of good information as well.
I appreciate that the humans in the book do not look so young as to turn off older readers. This is a book that would be helpful in my middle school as well as in an elementary school. The birds are starting to make some noise in Michigan as spring arrives…I’ve tried to challenge myself to learn to identify a few new birds each year and this book will help.
Common Core Connection
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
Using a visual presenter read through the book or selected pages on the various identification aspects of bird. Encourage students to study the layout of the pages and notice details, such as the headings, the captions, the text contained in cartoon dialogue balloons. Discuss how these features emphasize facts and help the reader better understand the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
Ask students to put their knowledge to work and sketch a bird they observe at home. Invite them to research their subject; write short, informational paragraphs; and draw sketches, using Look Up! to model their own observations.