Is This Panama?: A Migration Story


When Sammy, a young Wilson's warbler, wakes up one frosty August morning near the Arctic Circle, he instinctively knows that it's time to make his first migratory journey south to Panama. But there's one problem — where's Panama? All the other warblers having left without him, Sammy sets off on his journey by himself, stopping to ask the same question of each of the different animals that he meets along the way: "Is this Panama?"

From the caribou heading to his winter forest to ...

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When Sammy, a young Wilson's warbler, wakes up one frosty August morning near the Arctic Circle, he instinctively knows that it's time to make his first migratory journey south to Panama. But there's one problem — where's Panama? All the other warblers having left without him, Sammy sets off on his journey by himself, stopping to ask the same question of each of the different animals that he meets along the way: "Is this Panama?"

From the caribou heading to his winter forest to the monarch butterflies flitting to Mexico, every animal has a different destination and different advice for Sammy on how to find his way. Finally, a flock of his warbler cousins shows Sammy that finding Panama is as easy as following the stars. Animal migration patterns and seasonal changes are on display throughout this fascinating story, complemented by intricate paper collage, watercolor, and pen-and-ink illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the air near the Arctic Circle turns chilly, Sammy learns that his fellow Wilson’s warbler birds have already flown south, and he must follow. But how to find the way? During his out-of-the-way route, he meets other animals on the move, including sandhill cranes, a snake (“I follow the scent of other snakes to an underground cave where hundreds of us sleep away the winter together”), and humpback whales. Sammy finally learns that warblers typically migrate at night, using the stars as a map. Kim’s three-dimensional collages are well suited to the theme of flight: birds, butterflies, and dragonflies appear to lift off the pages. Appended materials include warbler migration routes and details about migratory species. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
Praise for I Found a Dead Bird:
"This straightforward, ‘no holds barred’ approach to the subject will captivate children. Chock-full of color photographs, the well-designed book contains boxes with tidbits of information on a wide variety of topics."
School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Debra Lampert-Rudman
One can almost feel the breeze and taste the salty ocean spray as Sammy, the young Wilson's warbler, travels to Panama for his first winter migration in Thornhill's delightful picture book. Soyeon Kim's collage illustrations pop off the page and give depth and motion to the story of the tiny lost bird as he encounters other migrating birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects. Young readers will enjoy this book not just for its scientific detail of the migration patterns of cranes, butterflies, caribou, garter snakes and others; but will also relate to this as a story of a small, youngster on his own for the first time. Sammy's exhausting journey has many ups and downs, literally, but he never loses hope. Endpapers with a map of Sammy's and the other migrators routes, alongside the Warblers' regular route, shows the wide disparity of his travels. The endpapers also include details on all of the migrating characters throughout the book. Beautifully done, this book offers opportunities for a variety of classroom discussions about migration, featuring some under-represented migrating animals, as well as staying true to your dreams. Reviewer: Debra Lampert-Rudman
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Sammy is a young Wilson's warbler, a bird that lives near the Arctic Circle. He knows that when it gets cold, it is time to fly south to Panama. However, he has somehow missed the other warblers' departure. Making the journey on his own, Sammy learns about several animals that migrate, including caribou, garter snakes, monarch butterflies, and humpback whales. Sammy's confusion allows for a broader discussion of migration as the animals tell him how they use scents, food availability, landmarks, the stars, and other signs from nature to tell them where to go. The logic breaks down, however, because Sammy does not know what to do. The back matter says, "Songbirds don't need to be shown the way because they have their migration routes hardwired into their brains at birth." If that is true, why is Sammy an exception? A map shows the warblers' regular route versus Sammy's circuitous one. No scientific sources are listed in the book, although the explanations provided match up with other sources consulted. Delicate, three-dimensional illustrations combine natural materials, sketching, and painting. Pieces appear to be constructed, then cut out and arranged to create the complete image. The pages are beautifully composed to capture the scale of the animals with Sammy providing perspective. Teachers and other adults should be prepared to offer nonfiction migration books to expand on the scientific elements presented in the story.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Sammy the young Wilson's warbler's freezing toes tell him it's time to migrate, but how will he find his way from his home in the Arctic Circle to Panama when all the other birds have already left? After several fruitless attempts to solve this problem by questioning other birds and animals, he sets off, hitching a ride on a sandhill crane and following the shoreline with a flock of darner dragonflies. Other warblers show him how to navigate by the stars, but the confusion of city lights leads to a painful encounter with a skyscraper window. Challenged by the uber-migrant Hudsonian godwit, Sammy sets out over the ocean, island hopping all the way to Mexico. The instincts of the tiny bird are true, and they lead him to his final destination. Thornhill's authoritative yet friendly and accessible text, coupled with Kim's decorative pen-and-wash collaged illustrations, make this an appealing book for children who appreciate realism and authentic detail in a picture book. The endpapers depict realistic sketches of a few of the vast variety of warblers, and a map of bird migration routes completes this charming and unusual nature storybook. A brief introduction to the other animals and birds mentioned in the story is also included. Possibilities for use in the classroom are endless. An unusual and attractive take on a perennially absorbing topic. (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781926973883
  • Publisher: Owlkids Books
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 691,213
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Thornhill is an award-winning writer and illustrator who has always had a strong interest in nature and the environment. Her books, which have been published in countries around the world, include the NAPPA Gold Award–winning I Found a Dead Bird, Over in the Meadow, and the NSTA honored Before & After. She lives in Havelock, Ontario.

Soyeon Kim is a Toronto-based, Korean-born artist who specializes in work that merges real-world materials, sketching, and painting to produce three-dimensional pieces. She is a graduate of the Visual Arts program at York University in Toronto and the illustrator of You Are Stardust.

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