Having reviewed books for several years for Princeton University Press, it was interesting to receive requests recently from two different sources to review books. Both sounded appealing and I was happy to oblige.
This is a particularly fine volume, covering 181 North American birds, produced as a collaborative venture between Harper Collins Publishers and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and illustrated by Natalia Rojas and Ana María Martínez. Rojas and Martínez are the illustrators of the wildly successful board game Wingspan and their wonderful expressive art is featured in this book. Not only is technical accuracy captured, but each illustration gives a real feel for the bird; a lifelike portrayal conveys movement and personality. The book is lovingly illustrated from the inside front cover right up up to the inside back cover. The common and scientific names are provided for each species, along with a brief description. A "Cool fact" is furnished so that the reader learns not only identification techniques, but a little about the lifestyle of the bird.
True to their origins as illustrators of a board game, Rojas and Martínez have risen to the challenge of providing an entertaining aspect to the book by introducing a game inspired by Wingspan, with options to play indoors or out.
It has been my experience in working with groups of young birders, in fact with novices of any age, that a challenge adds to the excitement and the mystique of discovering and getting to know new species. Any added dimension to the enjoyment of birds contributes to developing a commitment to not only birds, but to nature writ large. In an age of environmental degradation we need a new generation of eco-heroes, and this work has the potential to develop the interest and the skills required to begin the remediation of the damage we have caused to the biosphere. Throughout history birds have been a powerful force in developing a sensitivity to nature.
At our local naturalists club we have a kids group and a teens group. I will make sure that this book is put to good use in furthering their interest in, and understanding of, birds.
I highly recommend this book as a significant teaching tool. It makes learning fun!
Celebrating Birds - Harper Collins Publishers and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Natalia Rojas and Ana María Martínez
USA $29.99, Canada $36.99
352 pages - Full colour illustrations throughout