Bird Books for Kids

Do you have a birdfeeder? Do you watch the birds at it with your pre-school children? Talk to them about the birds. Ask them questions: what colour is that bird? How many birds are there? Count them together. Are those two birds the same, or different? Why are they different? What are those birds doing? What do you think the birds are thinking about? Are they happy? Are they afraid? Are they hungry? What do these birds like to eat?

These kinds of conversations with your children happen every day. They’re part of how those little minds learn and grow.

At the library, we have children’s books about birds. Some, like Have You Seen Birds? by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrator Barbara Reid, are books you can read aloud to pre-schoolers or which a beginning reader can read to you. Oppenheim’s rhymes and Reid’s famous plasticine illustrations make it great for bedtime storytime. Other books, like Look Up: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate, are books you can read with a school-age child or which your older child can explore alone. Look Up has loads of scientific facts presented in an engaging, conversational way, with cheerful, chatty illustrations that manage to be cartoony sketches while preserving the essential details necessary for scientific accuracy in the species portrayed. It also has a bibliography to guide you to more detailed reference books, and an index, making this book a great resource for finding specific information as well as something to read cover to cover to learn about birds and bird-watching.

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Forest has a Song, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Forest has a Song is a delight, a book of poetry that follows a child’s relationship with the nearby forest through a year, from winter around to winter again. The mood changes from poem to poem, as does the style. The watercolour illustrations depict sometimes only the girl and her dog exploring the woods, and sometimes her brother and parents as well. My favourites were “Song”, from which the title of the book is taken, “Farewell”, the final poem, and oddly, “Bone Pile”, in which she contemplates the last skeletal remains of some forest animal.

Literacy Tip: Reading poetry and nursery rhymes to babies is a fun and easy way to help babies learn the sounds and rhythms of language, even before they begin to use words themselves. There are many rhyming books that have simple, bouncing rhymes and bright pictures. Remember Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop or the Berenstains’ Inside, Outside, Upside Down? Traditional nursery rhymes are another source of poetry for young children. Sheree Fitch is known for her poetry for older kids, but she has also written books for babies, such as Kisses, Kisses, Baby-O. Ook’s favourite poetry to read to children, even babies, is by A.A. Milne. His two books of children’s poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, are also available in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin. Even when children don’t know what the words mean, the sounds are beautiful, and as they grow older listening to the poetry, they begin to learn new words from the context.

Talking Books and Audiobooks in the Library

Did you know that your library has many titles in alternative formats for those with a print disability? Patrons unable to read regular or large print materials may be registered as “Talking Books” patrons, which enables them to borrow from a collection of works in other formats provided by CELA, the Centre for Equitable Library Access, formerly the loan department of the CNIB. Every library in the province now has a collection of books on DAISY CD for the use of Talking Books patrons, thanks to CELA, as well as some magazines in both English and French. Here in Dorchester we have one hundred titles in DAISY format, which, just like nearly all the rest of our books, can be shared among libraries. These are the bright yellow discs you may have noticed on our shelf. Soon we will also have a DAISY player, so that those who wish to try out the machine before deciding whether to invest in one of their own may do so. The DAISY discs will play on a regular CD player or computer; however, the DAISY player contains many more features to make navigating the book much easier. The DAISY collection and CELA electronic resources are available only to those with a print disability who are registered Talking Books patrons, since neither authors nor publishers are paid for material produced in this way. However, we have many other audiobooks which anyone can take out, and the regular audiobook collection is growing all the time.

Of course, Talking Books patrons can also access the regular audiobook collection of books on CD and Playaways (MP3 players pre-loaded with a single title) available in your local library or through holds from other branches, or downloadable audiobooks available through our Electronic Library catalogue. We can also help those unable to read print materials to obtain books directly from CELA.

If you or someone you know might benefit from our Talking Books service, why not come in to the library and find out more?

All the Stars in the Sky

All the Stars in the Sky: Native Stories from the Heavens, by C.J. Taylor

Mohawk author and artist C. J. Taylor has written and illustrated a number of books retelling North American native myths and legends. One of these is All the Stars in the Sky. It contains seven stories from a variety of traditions (Ojibwa, Salish, Onondaga, Blackfoot, Inuit, Wasco, and Cherokee), all stories about the constellations or other heavenly bodies. Taylor’s prose style is spare and unornamented. The details of life at the time her retellings are set are presented simply, enabling quite young children to enter into the world of the story. These would be good stories for children reading novels on their own to explore, but as each is quite short, they would also work well individually for reading aloud. The simplicity is not overdone; teens and adults, too, will find them interesting and enjoyable.

Taylor works in acrylic and her paintings are both bright and brooding, full of life. They also have a dreamlike quality, many giving the viewer the feeling that something more is going on underneath or just beyond horizon – possibly something unsettling or dangerous. There’s a menace as well as a beauty to them, a reminder that these show not only the natural world with all its wonders and dangers, but the supernatural as well. One of my favourites among the paintings is “Shaman Visits Moon”, accompanying the story in which an Inuit hunter is invited to visit Moon and is tempted to stay with Moon’s sister, Sun. Shaman’s face as he gazes up at the sky is full of longing; he could be admiring the moon’s light before his adventure, or recalling it, afterwards, or both at once, given the dreamlike quality of the painting. Moon ushering him into the giant igloo past “the biggest of the dogs”, who towers over the human hunter, and Moon’s descent from the night sky with his dog-sled curve around the main figure.

With the nights growing longer, this is a good time for star-gazing, and this book of retold traditional stories would go well with that activity.

A.A. Milne: The World of Christopher Robin

April is poetry month, and at the library, we’re making our poetry evening an annual event. This is a time for poetry lovers of all ages to come together and share their favourite poems. Ook will probably be having a representative read from one of his favourite poets, A. A. Milne.

Milne, of course, is the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. (Banish all thoughts of Disney from your minds and come to the library to sign out the REAL Pooh.) He also wrote two books of poetry for children, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. These have been published in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin, a companion to The World of Pooh, which contains both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

Milne wrote to be read aloud to children, and you should do so. Don’t wait until they’re in school. Start with your wee ones. Even if the meaning of the words is lost on them, even if they’re not saying anything but, “Muhmuhmuhbah,” themselves yet, the rhythm of language and the patterns of the words are sinking deep into those tiny brains, preparing them for when they start to talk. Poetry is one of the most enjoyable ways I can think of to share time and language with your baby. Milne is a master. No missed rhythms or awkwardly-forced rhymes here to make your tongue stumble (except for comic effect).

These aren’t sleepy little lullabies either. Some capture beautifully a child’s perspective on the world. Some do so with affectionate irony. Some tell stories. All paint wonderful word-pictures in imaginations young and old, complemented by Ernest H. Shepard’s line drawings.

The library board has recently purchased a copy of The World of Christopher Robin. We don’t have it on our shelves yet, but it should be here (it is hoped) by our poetry evening. And if not, Ook will make sure someone brings a copy from home. The hard part will be deciding which poem to read.