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For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

by Peggy Thomas

Roger Tory Peterson revolutionized the way we look at and appreciate birds, animals, and plants. Some kids called him "Professor Nuts Peterson" because of his dedication to his craft; yet he went on to create the immensely popular Peterson Guides, which have sold more than seven million copies, and which birders everywhere appreciate for their simple text and


Roger Tory Peterson revolutionized the way we look at and appreciate birds, animals, and plants. Some kids called him "Professor Nuts Peterson" because of his dedication to his craft; yet he went on to create the immensely popular Peterson Guides, which have sold more than seven million copies, and which birders everywhere appreciate for their simple text and exquisite illustrations. Working closely with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York, author Peggy Thomas and artist Laura Jacques have created a fascinating portrait of a global environmentalist with this very first children's biography of Peterson, a winner of the John Burroughs Nature Books for Young Readers Award.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A boyhood love of birds turned into a lifelong passion for Peterson (1908–1996), an American artist, author, and activist. Birds are clearly a passion for illustrator Jacques, too; her dramatically lit, hyperreal full-bleed paintings often put various species of birds front and center, making it crystal clear why Peterson found them so captivating. Thomas provides a thorough account of Peterson’s life (and additional information in back matter), taking readers through his childhood explorations in the woods near his home in Jamestown, N.Y., to his successes as a painter and author and his later efforts to protect the habitats of birds around the globe. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
The life and times of world-famous naturalist "Professor Nuts Peterson" is presented for youngsters with exquisite mixed medium illustrations in order to bring archival material to life. For example, noted facsimiles of study notes, entries from Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds, and numerous black line drawings are generously featured. These are based on the collections of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York. This distinctive rendition traces the young boy's life from age eleven through his highly influential career as an American artist, teacher, activist, writer, and dedicated bird lover who created the Peterson Field Guides. The highly-acclaimed series investigates animals, plants, insects, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well as Peterson's beloved birds. In this lovely children's book, students are introduced to this incredible man's dedication to preserving life as found in nature. His passion to properly identify birds by their field markings began in earnest at age twenty-three. Three years later in 1934, A Field Guide to the Birds was published. Drawing and journaling continued even as he was drafted into the army and World War II broke out. By 1954, however, Peterson and his family moved to Old Lyme, Connecticut for an abundance of birds and wildlife. His efforts to bring awareness about the plight of endangered species overflowed into his work as director of education for the National Audubon Society and art director of Bird-Lore. As a wildlife painter, Peterson brought a multitude of subjects to life. Readers will be enthralled by his dedication until age eighty-seven as a powerful educator and compassionate protector of birds. Additional biographical information is given at the end of the book with a Selected Bibliography and a recommendation to follow in Peterson's captivating footsteps at the Institute. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Lifetime bird enthusiast and eventual author of numerous field guides, Peterson makes an impressive subject in this picture-book biography. Thomas starts with her subject's youth (he loved the outdoors and preferred the company of animals to other children) and follows chronologically to his death at 87 in 1996. The text is clear and lively. As a boy he went to his town's city hall to explain that he could not possibly be home by the 8:45 curfew because he was studying moths. The chief of police signed a permit allowing him to be out until 11. Full-page, gorgeous, and uncaptioned illustrations draw readers' eyes away from the text. One painting shows young Peterson about to poke a seemingly clueless bird. Turn the page, and the yellow winged flicker bursts across the spread, flying off to safety. One scene shows him in Brooklyn, NY, observing a raptor carrying a hapless, tiny rodent in its talon. Small, black on white silhouettes adapted from Peterson's guides are also shown. Further biographical information, touching on such things as his three marriages, is appended, along with a note on The Peterson Effect, which helped people better appreciate the plight of birds and other animals. Thomas's prose and Jacques's art work in tandem to rescue Peterson from obscurity for this age range.—Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Intrigued from childhood by the wildlife around him, Roger Tory Peterson grew up to publish, in 1934, the first pocket-sized bird guide, a book that drew people's attention to the natural world and grew into a series that eventually encompassed plants and animals all over the world.From cover to cover, this picture-book biography is filled with birds, just as the world must have seemed to the young naturalist as a child. Using language and imagery relevant to her topic, Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation, 2008) provides a lively chronological narrative. Regrettably obscured by the cover in places, the endpapers include a field-guide entry for this birder, including his habitat, identifying markings, voice and range. Jacques' hyper-realistic mixed-media paintings have sharp edges and blended shadows, giving the appearance of acrylics and collage digitally combined. Most fill a page, full bleed, opposite a page of text that has a bird, butterfly or airplane silhouette (Peterson wrote military handbooks during World War II) as well as spot art in black and white. One memorable page turn shows the boy about to touch a sleeping flicker and then, across a wordless spread, the startled flicker flying away, glowing yellow under its wings. An afterword describes "The Peterson Effect"—the increase in care for our environment. An excellent addition to the "sense of wonder" shelf. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)
AD1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

Peggy Thomas is the author of Farmer George Plants a Nation, an award-winning history and science picture book biography of George Washington, as well as more than a dozen other books for children. She lives in Middleport, New York, not far from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.

Laura Jacques is an acclaimed artist whose work has focused on wildlife, nature, and environmental awareness for children.

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