Friday, October 25, 2013

Birds in Children's Literature: 35 Great Books to Read (0-12 years)

In Australia it is National Bird Week (19-25 October 2013). The week is sponsored by Birdlife Australia an organisation 'dedicated to creating a bright future for Australia's birds'. As a bird lover I thought this was a great opportunity for parents and teachers to share some children's literature that feature birds. I had fun brainstorming this with daughter, son-in-law and 3 of our grandchildren. Why not celebrate the wonder of birds with some great literature.  Here are some examples that teachers might consider using.

Young Readers (0-7 years)

The following books are varied in age range from first books like 'Boo to a Goose' to more demanding picture books like 'How to heal a Broken Wing'.

1. 'Are You my Mother' by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird is hatched while his mother is away. Fallen from his nest, he sets out to look for her and asks everyone he meets -- including a dog, a cow, and a plane -- "Are you my mother?"

2. 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' by Mo Willems

When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place - a pigeon! But you've never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate. In his hilarious picture book debut, popular cartoonist Mo Willems perfectly captures a preschooler's temper tantrum.

'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' was a Caldecott Honour Book in 2004. Other books in this delightful series include 'Don't let the Pigeon Stay up Late!' and 'The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog'.

3. 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch' by Rhonda Armitage and illustrated by David Armitage. Other books in the series include 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Rescue' and 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Picnic'.

My children and grandchildren have all loved these books about Mr Grinling's adventures.

4. 'Waddle, Giggle, Gargle!' by Pamela Allen

Sitting in a tree outside Jonathan's house is a black and white magpie. 'Waddle Giggle Gargle!' the magpie shouts. A delightful story about a boisterous, swooping, waddling, giggling, gargling bird!

This book is worth a read for the language alone. A great read aloud book.

5. A bunch of books about ducks & geese. Some of my favourites:

a) 'Alexander's Outing' by Pamela Allen
b) 'Fix it Duck' , 'Duck in the Truck' and others in the same series by Jez Alborough
c) 'I Went walking' by Sue Williams and illustrated by Julie Vivas
d) 'Make Way for Ducklings' by Robert McCloskey (Caldecott Medal winner 1942).
e) 'The Story About Ping' by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese
f) 'Boo to a Goose' by Mem Fox and illustrated by David Miller
g) 'Stickybeak' by Hazel Edwards and illustrated by Rosemary Wilson
h) 'Duck and Goose' series by Tad Hills
i) 'The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck' by Beatrix Potter

6. 'Edward the Emu' by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement and of course 'Edwina the Emu' and by the same duo.
Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,
There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,
And compared to the seals that lived right next door,
Well being an emu was frankly a bore.
Tired of his life as an emu, Edward decides to try being something else for a change. He tries swimming with the seals. He spends a day lounging with the lions. He even does a stint slithering with the snakes. But Edward soon discovers that being an emu may be the best thing after all. And so he returns to his pen, only to find a big surprise awaiting him. . . .

7. 'Feathers for Phoebe' by Rod Clements

Phoebe doesn′t want to be ordinary. She wants to turn heads and be noticed - she wants to be fabulous! But when she seeks the help of the outrageous and beautiful Zelda, her transformation leads to some unexpected results.

8. Three great books about penguins

a) 'Tacky the Penguin' by Helen Lester and illustrated by Kim Munsinger
b) 'That's Not my Penguin' by Usborne Children's Books. A great first book for babies.
c) 'The Truth About Penguins' by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Mark Jackson,

9. 'Slinky Malinki, Open the Door' by Lynley Dodd

"Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd were a troublesome pair; do you know what they did? Alone in the house one mischievous day, they opened a door and they started to play." Room by room, the terrible twosome wreak havoc...until they decide to see what's behind that last door. Slinky Malinki's curiosity finally gets the best of him. Collect all the Slinky Malinki books!
This is a funny book that children love from a great New Zealand author.

10. 'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson
The bay owls came out of their house,
and they sat on the tree and waited.
A big branch for Sarah, a small branch for Percy,
and an old piece of ivy for Bill.
A gorgeous book. Wonderful illustrations and delightful text.

11. 'Puffling' by Margaret Wild

Puffling is a baby—small, white, and very hungry. Every day he waits in the burrow while his parents, Big Stripy Beak and Long Black Feather hunt for food. As he grows, Puffling dreams of the day when he will leave his nest and fly away—but he isn’t ready yet, not until he’s tall and brave enough to fend for himself. Every day Puffling asks his parents, but every day they say he must wait until he has grown bigger. Will he ever be ready to head out into the world on his own?

12. 'How to Heal a Broken Wing' by Bob Graham

'How to Heal a Broken Wing' is a delightful story about a little boy who finds a bird with an injured wing. He takes the bird home and with his parents help, and some rest, time and a dash of hope will the bird will fly again? The book has all the usual Bob Graham trademarks, simple and engaging illustrations and an economy of words that are well crafted. It was the winner of the Australian Children's Book Council award in 2009 for best book in the Early Childhood category.

13. 'Cat and Canary' by Michael Foreman

I just love English author illustrator Michael Foreman. This is a favourite around our place.

Cat’s best friend is the canary in his apartment. Once their owner has gone out, Cat lets Canary out of his cage and they go up onto the roof together. Cat wishes he could fly, like all the birds around him, and when he finds a kite tangled in an aerial, it is too much of a temptation. But the kite carries him much too high and much too far, and Canary needs to marshall a crowd of feathered friends to tow the kite home. But Cat isn’t the least bit deterred: “Tomorrow, we can go to the land beyond the river, and still be back for tea!”

14. 'Olga the Brolga' by Rod Clement

Olga is in a terrible mood. She desperately wants to dance, but know one will dance with her. Her parents have other things to do. So, Olga decides to dance by herself, and something wonderful happens.

This great book about the famous Australian Brolga bird is ideal for kids aged 3-7 years.

15. 'There's a Bird on Your Head' by Mo Willems

If your children loved 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' they will also love 'There's a Bird on Your Head'. It is one of a series of very funny tales for beginner readers from this award-winning writer and illustrator.

16. 'The Last Egret: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' by Harvey E. Oyer III

This is the second book in the series 'The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' and was inspired by the teenaged adventures of his great grand-uncle. It is an illustrated novel for grade schoolers

The experiences of his uncle were of the late 19th century Florida Everglades, when the vast South Florida wilderness was twice the size of today. In those days it was alive with snowy egrets green herons,  roseate spoonbills and many wading birds. But the birds were the target of plume hunters, shooting them simply for their feathers to use in ladies’ hats.  A great read for children aged 6-10 years.

17. 'The Bush Concert' by Helga Visser

There has been a terrible drought and the birds put on a gala concert to cheer themselves up. There is singing and dancing and magic tricks, but the final performance is the perfect end to a wonderful bush concert.

Independent readers (8-12)

18. 'Storm Boy' by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy likes to wander alone along the fierce deserted coast among the dunes that face out into the Southern Ocean off the coast of South Australia near the Coorong. A pelican mother is shot and Storm Boy rescues the three chicks, and brings them back to health. He names them Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival. He finally lets them go, but Mr Percival returns. The story follows the struggle to let Mr Percival go and has a memorable ending. A classic story from one of Australia's great writers.

19. 'The Landing: A Night of Birds' by Katherine Scholes and illustrated by David Wong

One stormy night at her grandfather's place on the windswept coast, Annie enters a boathouse occupied by injured sea birds and finds herself able to understand their speech.

This is a wonderful book that isn't known very well by children today. Check it out.

20. 'Mr Popper's Penguins'  by Richard Atwater and illustrated by Florence Atwater (Newberry Medal winner 1939).

A classic of American humour, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. "Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story."--The Horn Book. Newbery Honour Book.

21. 'Sticky Beak' by Morris Gleitzman.

Rowena Batts has enough problems in her life without adopting a crazy cockatoo. She's just splattered two hundred grown-ups with jelly and custard, and her dad's getting married to her teacher. But Sticky the cockatoo turns out to be just the friend she needs . . .

22. 'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines

Barry Hines's acclaimed novel continues to reach new generations of teenagers and adults with its powerful story of survival in a tough, joyless world. Billy Casper is a troubled teenager growing up in a Yorkshire mining town. Treated as a failure at school and unhappy at home, Billy discovers a new passion in life when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk. Billy identifies with her silent strength and she inspires in him the trust and love that nothing else can. Ken Loach's well-known film adaptation, Kes, has achieved cult status and in his new afterword Barry Hines discusses working on the screen version (he adapted the novel) and reappraises a book that has become a popular classic.

This is a classic book for older readers.

23. 'Coot Club' by Arthur Ransome

It all started with a coot's nest. Dorothy and Dick meet Tom Dodgeon, Port and Starboard, and three pirate salvagers all members of the Coot Club Bird Protection Society. When one of the coot's nests is disturbed by a shipful of Hullabaloos-rude holiday boaters - trouble begins. Frantic chases, calamitous boat collisions, and near drownings fill the pages of this exciting fifth addition to Ransome's classic children's series.

You don't have to like birds to enjoy this wonderful book from one of England's most famous and awarded children's authors.

24. 'Wheel on the School' by Meindert DeJong

This 1955 Newbery Medal winner is one of my favourite books. Suitable for childrens aged 10-12. A story about how the children at a small Dutch school set out to get storks back to their village.

"Six school children bring the storks (harbingers of good luck) back to their little Dutch village. (A story) written with dramatic power and a deep insight into the minds and hearts of children".--Booklist. Newbery Medal; ALA Notable Children's Book.

25. 'The Phoenix and the Carpet' by E. Nesbitt

This wonderful novel for older readers deals with the Phoenix bird from Greek mythology that has the ability to come back to life after death. It does this by rising from the ashes after the burning of the egg from its predecessor.

The Phoenix and the Carpet is E. Nesbit's second fantasy novel and is the sequel to Five Children and It. From Robert, Anthea, Jane and Cyril's new nursery carpet there falls a mysterious egg which is hatched in the fire to reveal a benevolent, resourceful and ingenious Phoenix who explains that the carpet is possessed of magic qualities. And so begins a series of fantastic and bizarre adventures as the carpet transports the children and the Phoenix to places as diverse as a chilling French castle, a desert island and even the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company's offices, which the Phoenix believes to be a shrine for his followers.

Summing up

I would love to hear from you about some of your favourite 'bird' books. Send me a comment with your ideas.

If you're interested in some non-fiction books on birds for children check out this great post from the 'Delightful Children's Books' blog (here).


Hannah Blake said...

Such a fantastic post! Our Kindergarten classes at school went on a fantastic excursion last term to the Royal Botanic Gardens - 'Alexander's Maths Outing'. It was such a great day.

My own class spent the week before the excursion learning all about ducks. We read 'Alexander's Outing' (of course!), 'Make Way for Ducklings', 'I Wish that I had Duck Feet', 'The Story about Ping' and 'The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck'. We also read some poems - 'Ducks Ditty' and 'When Daddy Fell Into the Pond', did some science experiments learning about how ducks float and how their feathers are waterproof, learned about ordinal numbers, painted using watercolours (like Beatrix Potter), read lots of non-fiction books about ducks (our favourite was 'Just Ducks!') and wrote information reports.

There is so much scope within this topic! We had the best week. And I highly recommend the excursion too!

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Hannah, so glad you like the post. Your excursion sounds fantastic. I've just updated the post with some books I forgot to add. Thanks for the comment and your own suggestions.

SquiggleMum said...

Absolutely love this post Trevor. It combines my two favourite things - birds and picture books. And like you, I too am a member of Birdlife Australia ;)

PragmaticMom said...

There's a Bird on Your Head. The Last Egret. I love both of these books on the birth of the Audubon Society in response to the near extiction of birds hunted for feathers.

Trevor Cairney said...

More great suggestions from readers and separately from my Twitter followers, I will update the post later today. Any more suggestions?

Unknown said...

I like She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head by Kathryn Lasky (it's about the formation of the Audubon Society and the fad of using birds to decorate ladies' hats). I also picked up a copy of Barn Owls by Tony Johnston and my little one LOVES it. Great post. I'm planning on adding quite a few of these to the TO BUY list!

Bird of Paradise said...

No one Noticed Ralph is about a parrot one about how the Wren became the King of the Birds by hiding himself on a eagle and one from indian myth about how birds made wings for Bat and Flying Squrrel and won a ball game