My Baby Blue Jays

( 5 )


A blue jay building a nest outside his window prompts John Berendt to find his camera and record the familiar, yet always fascinating sequence of events that will unfold, from eggs being laid to chicks emerging and trying to fly. Children and adults alike will be astonished at the adventurous spirit of one particularly curious young blue jay as he ventures into the world. The author of the best-selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brings his narrative skill to this up-close and delightfully informal ...

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A blue jay building a nest outside his window prompts John Berendt to find his camera and record the familiar, yet always fascinating sequence of events that will unfold, from eggs being laid to chicks emerging and trying to fly. Children and adults alike will be astonished at the adventurous spirit of one particularly curious young blue jay as he ventures into the world. The author of the best-selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brings his narrative skill to this up-close and delightfully informal account of an event that recurs each spring.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From Savannah to Venice to... the balcony? In a major departure from his bestselling adult nonfiction, Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) delivers a warm photo-essay about a pair of blue jays that make their home on his apartment balcony in New York City. While the arc of the story—nest-building, laying eggs, the first flight of a fledgling—is an old one, Berendt's telling is welcoming and personal, as if he were relating the story to a child in his lap while paging through a family photo album. "He must have told her that he'd found a place where they could build a nest," he says of the blue jay and his mate. "Do you know why I think so?" Set within scalloped borders against a cream backdrop, the photographs provide a remarkably intimate view of the birds' lives, though, as might be expected, occasional images are a bit blurry or pixilated. Despite a somewhat flat ending, this is a lovely first book for budding bird watchers or naturalists. Ages 5–8. (June)
Children's Literature - Nicole Peterson Davis
Someone living on 87th street in New York City probably would not expect to see blue jays up close every day. But, that is just what happened to author John Berendt when two blue jays decided to build a nest on his balcony. He followed the blue jays step-by-step, from the start of the nest to the return of the babies. The photography is amazing as he was able to get so close to the little birds. He followed them carefully when they left the nest for the first time and was able to document how they strengthened their wings to be able to fly. This is an interesting book for children to read and thus learn: how birds are hatched and how they survive after they are born but before they can fly on their own. His insights and observations will delight young and old alike. Reviewer: Nicole Peterson Davis
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—This is a charming photo essay about blue jays nesting on the balcony outside the author's New York City home office. The colorful photos and conversational text follow the nest building, egg-laying, and chick rearing, focusing finally on the first fledgling to leave the safety of the nest for the more dangerous realities of life on the ground. Obviously delighted with his window into the avian world, Berendt happily anthropomorphizes the emotions of the intrepid little youngster, but the photos carry it off without a hitch. An elegant little production with ripple-edged photos mounted on soft beige pages (with an eye-grabber on the deep teal cover), this title will slip quite smoothly onto the shelf of springtime books, giving the old first robin a run for its money.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews

When two blue jays build a nest on a third-floor balcony of his New York City home, Berendt documents their work and the progress of their three eggs and chicks, right to the first fledgling's surprising first journey.

The author's 4"x6" snapshots, with scalloped white borders, are mounted one or two to a page above or alongside a short paragraph of exclamation-point littered text. These images, some perhaps taken through a window, are not always very clear. His text ascribes human emotions and actions to these birds and often talks down to his audience. "And what do you think he gave them to eat? Bugs and worms!" He also presumes gender, assuming it's the male who chose the nest site, began the construction and does the feeding, though he admits at the end that the only time he could tell them apart was when the female laid the eggs. He describes the birds' actions as if he were talking to grandchildren, using a first person conversational voice and occasional direct address. This is a first title for children by the city-dwelling author of best-selling adult nonfiction. Exciting as this encounter with nature was for him, he hasn't translated it into a successful children's book; a better choice is Pamela F. Kirby'sWhat Bluebirds Do(2009), with its large, sharp photographs, objective description and helpful end matter.

Subpar photography plus patronizing text keep this one from flying.(Picture book. 3-6)

Pamela Paul
Berendt, alas, is no National Geographic photographer. Some of the images are blurry…But the simple, homey story is so appealing, and the prose so carefully and sweetly pitched to young readers, that even adults will be transported to a state of childlike wonder.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670012909
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/9/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 963,717
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John  Berendt

John Berendt has been a columnist for Esquire and the editor of New York magazine, and is the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction.


"I like crazy people," John Berendt once told an interviewer for The Independent. "I encourage them, they make good copy."

They do indeed, if Berendt is writing about them. His first book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which Berendt has called "a nonfiction novel," could be classified as a true crime story, or a travelogue, but it's also an absorbing collection of crazy people, cranks, eccentrics and oddballs, whose lives Berendt chronicles with as much detail as he devotes to murder suspect Jim Williams, ostensibly his main character.

As readers and critics have noted, the true "main character" of Midnight in the Garden is the city of Savannah, Ga., which enjoyed a tremendous boost in tourism as a result of what Savannahians now refer to simply as "the book."

Berendt started visiting Savannah in the early 1980s, flying in from New York, where he worked as a writer at Esquire. "All I did the first year," he later said in the London Daily Telegraph, "was take notes and interview, because I knew, the longer I was there, the less strange the whole thing would seem."

For Berendt, who once edited New York magazine, Savannah may have seemed strange at first, but in a fascinating way. As he explained in an Entertainment Weekly interview, "People in Savannah don't say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on her coat.' Instead, they say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on the coat that her third husband gave her before he shot himself in the head.'"

After gathering facts, gossiping with the locals and getting to know the city, Berendt shaped his experiences into a work Kirkus Reviews called "stylish, brilliant, hilarious, and coolhearted." Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil spent a record-setting four years on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 2.7 million copies in hardcover.

Not everyone adored it, however. In a controversy that perhaps anticipated author James Frey's troubles in the publishing world, some journalists wondered whether Berendt's embellishments were too numerous and substantial for the book to hold up as nonfiction. The book included an author's note explaining that Berendt changed the sequence of some events in the narrative.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil became a fixture on bestseller lists and was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Some of the real people profiled in the book became minor celebrities in their own right -- most notably Berendt's drag-queen friend Lady Chablis, who played herself in the movie and later published an autobiography.

Readers wondered what Berendt would do for an encore, but the author was relatively slow to oblige them. It wasn't until more than ten years after the publication of his first book that Berendt released The City of Falling Angels, a portrait of Venice as experienced not by tourists, but by its year-round residents, who turn out to be as eccentric and weirdly compelling as the Savannahians of Midnight in the Garden. ("The man whose palazzo features three space suits and a stuffed monkey is par for the course," noted Janet Maslin in The New York Times Book Review.)

Though some critics thought Berendt's second book lacked the narrative pull of his first, many agreed that, as Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley put it, "The story of the Fenice fire and its aftermath is exceptionally interesting, the cast of characters is suitably various and flamboyant, and Berendt's prose, now as then, is precise, evocative and witty."

As Ann Godoff, Berendt's editor (first at Random House and now at Penguin Press), explained it, "By no means is this the same book. But nobody else could have written them both."

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Behrendt:

"I never use an alarm clock. I have an internal mechanism that wakes me up when I want to wake up. I'm not sure how I developed this ability, or what its significance is. Anyhow, I always fall asleep secure in the knowledge that I will wake up within ten minutes of the desired time. And I always do.

"When I'm writing, I like to gain distance from my work so I can tell how it will strike a reader who is seeing it for the first time. I do this through a trick I devised while I was living in Savannah writing Midnight -- I would call my apartment in New York, the answering machine would pick up, I'd read the page of text I'd just written, then I'd hang up. A minute later, I'd call my apartment again and listen to the "message." Hearing my own voice reading the page over the phone -- my voice having traveled 1800 miles (900 each way ) -- gave me just the detached perspective I needed.

"On occasion, while I was working on Falling Angels, I used the same technique, ridiculous though it may sound; in this case the calls were from Venice to New York rather than from Savannah. Gay Talese says he achieves a similar detachment by tacking pages to the opposite wall and then reading them through binoculars. Whatever works."

"I had an early start in the world of books. I was hired at the age of fourteen as a stock boy at the Economy Book Store in downtown Syracuse. It was my first job. I worked after school every day for four hours and made ten dollars a week."

"I stay fit by exercising daily on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle for close to an hour. I'd be bored out of my mind doing this if it weren't for the fact that I watch movies at the same time. That way, time flies. I call it my Treadmill and Bicycle Film Festival. I've found that if I'm watching a thriller, my pace ratchets up a notch."

"My number-one hobby, my preferred means of unwinding, and my most often-used route of escape are all the same: reading. Nothing takes me out of myself faster or more completely than a good read. It relieves stress, lifts me out of a funk, and makes me feel I'm doing something worthwhile.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 5, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Syracuse, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B. Harvard College, 1961

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    My Baby Blue Jays by John Berendt arrived in my mailbox last wee

    My Baby Blue Jays by John Berendt arrived in my mailbox last week as the April selection for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

    My daughter is completely fascinated by this book. She studies each photo so closely, and asks questions as I read. The text reads as if the author is sitting in a recliner, a child in his lap, showing off the photos he has taken, telling the child a bit about each one. My Baby Blue Jays has a truly delightful tone which catches (and keeps!) a child's attention and wonder.

    I love that the book is basically a nature photo essay which takes place in the city. New York City, specifically. John Berendt reminds children that if they look closely, they can find and observe nature no matter where they live.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    It's a must read . . . especially with children!

    My daughters (age 4 and 6) and I found this book at our local library. I instantly knew that we would have to have a copy for ourselves. The author noticed this blue jay nest just outside his window. The story follows the birds from egg to juvenile bird. The photos are fantastic-amazing perspective! There is also a bit of suspense in the story as the final Jay hesitates leaving the nest to journey out on his own. We bought this copy as a Chrismas gift for my 2 year old nephew. My daughters don't know that one will be under the tree for them as well. A wonderful one to enjoy together!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    Charming and enjoyable! I recommend this book for adult and kids, and especially those who love our songbirds.

    A charming story of a beautiful songbird's nesting days. The adventurous Blue Jay fledgling demonstrated the unbridled curiousity of the young similar to humans! The photographs followed the storline beautifully.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    !djvjskhcm vx

    A bigb.oobed, hot @ssed chick walks up to you. "I'm a sex slave with no master. How about you be my master?" She asks, her voice husky with desire.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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