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Children's LiteratureIf you are a birdwatcher or just fascinated by these creatures who appear to be the distant relatives of the dinosaurs, then this book will provide hours of pleasurable and informative reading. Actually days or weeks if one were to read it through, but since this is a reference work, most users will be looking for specific information about a favorite bird or species. The introductory material is an education in itself explaining about the various classification systems, and the one that this book uses. It is followed by a really good introduction to birds. Readers who are writing reports will learn about the various classes of birds, birds sizes and how their bodies are designed for flying (as well as those of flightless birds), the purpose and structure of feathers, respiration, flight adaptation, senses (vision, hearing and smell), breeding, and nests. All of this information is illustrated in full color with diagrams that clearly demonstrate the principles and give examples of a variety of birds and their abilities. Once all of that is absorbed, readers can spend time reading about specific families of birds. The text describes each bird, its habitat and again is accompanied by beautiful, full-color photographs. An inset box provides basic facts as to the bird's official versus common name, order, family, species or subspecies, where one would find the bird, habitat, size, plumage, voice, nest, eggs, diet and finally conservation status. While the text is quite advanced it could be read by kids 12 and up and younger kids can enjoy the pictures and make use of the fact file data. The feature about penguins occupies ten pages with pictures of the birds underwater, many of the speciesand the habitats which range from vast rookeries to the freezing Antarctic. It was interesting and sad to learn that emperor chicks that fall onto the ice, off the parents feet and out of the brood pouch die of exposure within a few minutes. Gnateaters on the other hand are given one page, but again it is more than enough information for most of us. There is a table of contents, extensive glossary, bibliography, index and list of picture credits that would require a magnifying glass to read. It doesn't matter, the pictures are as good as anything you might see in National Geographic or Smithsonian Magazine. An outstanding reference book for libraries, and a great gift for the consummate birdwatcher. 2003, Firefly, Ages 12 up.
— Marilyn Courtot