Bird Songs: A Backwards Counting Book


The sky is quiet.

The yard is quiet.

The creek is quietly gurgling.

Then...tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat! A red-capped woodpecker starts his rap for the day. Next comes nine soft coos from the mourning doves, followed by the chipping of a flurry of sparrows. And on go the birdsongs throughout the day.

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The sky is quiet.

The yard is quiet.

The creek is quietly gurgling.

Then...tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat! A red-capped woodpecker starts his rap for the day. Next comes nine soft coos from the mourning doves, followed by the chipping of a flurry of sparrows. And on go the birdsongs throughout the day.

Celebrate neighborhood birds in this poetic picture book, and count their sounds backward from ten to one, until all is quiet in the yard again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Franco (Mathematickles!) and 2004 Caldecott Honor artist Jenkins (What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?) celebrate the free concert that birds perform for backyard audiences every day. There's a method to their merriment: as the book introduces various species, it uses their sounds to count down from 10 to one. At dawn, a hungry, red-capped woodpecker "raps a tap dance with his beak, pecking 10 times as he looks for breakfast bugs." By the time evening shadows gather, a tiny hummingbird emits a single, comically evocative "tzik" as she "sucks one last treat from the trumpet-shaped honeysuckle in the garden." (It's not the last word, however-that's provided by a mockingbird who recapitulates all the sounds she's heard from her fellow feathered creatures that day.) Jenkins's gorgeous, boldly graphic collages make the birds seem at once familiar and magical; in the startling close-ups and dramatic framings, the winged creatures seem to fly off the page. The generous typography used for the birds' sounds is certain to inspire plenty of audience participation, as youngsters attempt to "eeyah" like a gull, "dee dee" like a chickadee and "caw" like a crow. Ages 3-7. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Denise Daley
This beautifully illustrated picture book uses rich and flowing language to describe a daily routine of eleven different birds. Each bird repeats a distinctive sound and young readers will enjoy finding and counting these words as they are displayed on the pages. Very young children in particular will enjoy this educational and engaging book. It concludes with feathery facts that further explain the unique behaviors of each of the birds that are depicted in the book. Familiar birds such as woodpeckers, robins, crows, and gulls are a few of those that are included. Some of the terminology may be difficult for early readers, but this adds to the learning experience by broadening the reader's vocabulary. Caldecott Honor winner Steve Jenkins has created the delightful collage-type illustrations that are similar to those in the book that won him the medal in 2004.
School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2
This lavishly illustrated count-it-down story describes a day filled with birdsong. At sunrise, a woodpecker "raps a tap dance with his beak, pecking 10 times as he looks for breakfast bugs." The illustration shows a dazzling redheaded woodpecker working on a tree, with 10 "tats" in various sizes scattered across the pages. Each successive spread features a different type of bird with a declining number of utterances. For example, mourning doves land on a telephone wire and "coo" to one another nine times; sparrows crowd around a bird feeder and emit eight "chirps." At day's end, a mockingbird mimics all of the songs she has heard, resulting in a true cacophony of sounds (and a fun challenge for reading aloud). In his vivid, realistic-looking collages, Jenkins uses accurate textures and colors for each species, and creates the appearance of depth, light, and warmth (the chickadees, described as making a tree look "like a candelabra," are divine). The writing is lyrical and engaging, and quick "feathery facts" about the creatures are appended. This book, which pairs nicely with Aileen Fisher's Know What I Saw? (Roaring Brook, 2005) and Ann Jonas's Bird Talk (Greenwillow, 1999), will engender a love for birds and an awareness of their unique music.
—Teresa PfeiferCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
From the "tat tats" of a woodpecker to the "tzik" of a hummingbird, this is an appealing day-long countdown of birdsongs, accompanied by short descriptions of some typical activities for each bird mentioned. Jenkins's signature cut-paper collages depict the birds so accurately they can easily be identified. Unfortunately, some identifications will be different from the words in the text. The "red-capped woodpecker" is clearly red-headed, the "chipping sparrows" are house sparrows and chickadees are more usually named for their black caps than their white cheeks. Although parents and caregivers drawn by the naturalistic detail will be put off by this mislabeling, young listeners may be more engaged by the game of counting the birdsongs: ten tats, nine coos, eight chips and so on, ending with the mockingbird's lovely nighttime rendition of all she has heard during the day. "Feathery facts" in the last two pages add something about each species. A commendable concept that just misses the mark. (Picture book/nonfiction. 3-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689877773
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 1/9/2007
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 402,377
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Franco is the author of numerous books for children, including Counting Our Way to the 100th Day! and Mathematickles!, both illustrated by Steven Salerno; and Birdsongs, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. She and her husband live in Palo Alto, California. They have three sons — two actors and a sculptor. Visit Betsy's website at

Steven Jenkins has written and illustrated many award-winning children’s books, including Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails and the 2003 Caldecott Honor recipient, What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? He lives in Boulder, Colorado. Visit him at

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