In 1941, whooping cranes were shamefully easy to count--as an author's note points out, only 15 existed in the world. (Today there are 131 whooping cranes in the Canadian-American flock.) For Owens ( A Caribou Alphabet ), counting cranes is not merely an exercise to teach numbers but a reminder of the need for continued protection of North America's largest bird. Though central, this conservationist message never overwhelms the story: the author's spare, haiku-like text makes the point with something like the understated elegance of the crane's flight. Light-splashed and airy, her watercolor and acrylic illustrations seem to hover above the page. Beginning with a single crane, each exquisite spread adds another bird as it illustrates a variety of scenes from the 2600-mile spring and fall migrations of cranes from Canada to Texas. A snowy Northern lake, harvested farmland and a Southern tidal marsh crowded with wildlife are among the habitats depicted. Information concerning the birds' mating habits, diet and relations to other species is gracefully included. Ages 2-8. (Sept.)
- Judy Katsh
As much a tribute to the whooping crane as it is a counting book, this captivating picture book is a visual description of the habits and habitats of North America's largest bird and symbol for wildlife preservation. By 1941, the world population of whooping cranes numbered just 15 - the reason why this counting book also numbers from one to fifteen. The author-illustrator's delicate, detailed watercolors and acrylics are as graceful are the cranes themselves. Her haiku-like text gives these willowy creatures their rightful voice.