Parrots Over Puerto Rico


Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home…These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever.

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the ...

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Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home…These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever.

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots' story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.

With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, Parrots Over Puerto Rico invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.

Winner of the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Medal
A 2014 Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Parrots thrived in Puerto Rico long before the first human settlers arrived some 5,000 years ago; by 1975, only 13 of the birds were still living in the wild. Roth and Trumbore follow The Mangrove Tree with another story of ecological revitalization, explaining the threats the parrots faced over the centuries, including invasive species and deforestation. The authors demonstrate how the parrots’ survival was entwined with Puerto Rico’s very history (bees and rats from Spanish settlers’ ships wreaked havoc on the birds’ nests) before detailing ongoing efforts to rebuild their numbers. The book itself is oriented vertically, calendar-style, amplifying its sense of height and allowing for dramatic paper and fabric collages that show the vivid blue-and-green parrots soaring over the island. In an especially lovely scene, a towering waterfall of crinkled strips of white paper cascades over a fibrous backdrop of rocks in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque rainforest. An extensive afterword describes the species’ recovery and includes more than a dozen photographs. A thoughtful and thorough examination of the ways human action can both help and harm animal populations. Ages 6–11. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This history of both the island of Puerto Rico and the parrots living there exaggerates the verticality of its story by requiring the reader to turn it on its side to read it. The text at the bottom begins with the arrival of parrots on the lush tropical island. From 5000 BCE, groups of people join them. In 1493 Columbus claims the island for Spain. The parrots flourish as many different people come to live on the island as well. After centuries, Spain loses a war with the United States and control of what is called Puerto Rico. As forests are cut down, the parrots begin to disappear. And as Puerto Ricans try to decide on their independence, they also begin efforts to save the parrots. After a long struggle, they are beginning to succeed. On the textless front jacket/cover, three brilliantly colored parrots dominate with accents of black and white. Fabric and paper collage create the stunning birds plus all the other naturalistic scenery and characters. The text underneath is not only filled with information, but includes a glossary and pronunciation. An afterword with photographs details the efforts of the Puerto Rican Recovery Program. There is also a list of important dates and a bibliography. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
★ 10/01/2013
Gr 3–6—Before humans arrived on the island, parrots numbered in the hundred of thousands. By 1967, only 24 birds remained. Since then, scientists in the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program (PRPRP) have established aviaries to raise the birds in captivity and release them in the wild. Using a vertical page orientation, Roth has plenty of space for detailed collages that depict the parrots' lives and struggles above human activities that have altered the island's ecosystem over the centuries. Taínos, Spanish explorers and settlers, African slaves, and others hunted parrots for food, cut down nesting places, and introduced animals that ate their eggs. After the United States took control, deforestation continued. Some military history and political questions such as the debate about Puerto Rico's commonwealth status slow the narrative. When the focus shifts to the strategies, setbacks, and successes of the PRPRP, the story soars. From constructing nesting boxes to training captive-bred birds how to avoid hawks, the program is slowly rebuilding the parrot population. After the main story, several pages of photos accompany further explanations of the group's work. In addition to their list of sources, the authors supply a detailed time line of events. Like this team's The Mangrove Tree (Lee & Low, 2011), this title offers an engaging and hopeful look at environmental restoration.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-01
An ambitious project: The text on each vibrant, double-page collage, arranged vertically, intersperses the near-extinction and slow comeback of the Puerto Rican parrot with over 2,000 years of human history. "Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home….[T]hey nearly vanished from the earth forever. This is their story." From this dramatic beginning onward, both artwork and text encourage slow absorption of each spread before the turn of the page. Various peoples--from unnamed aboriginals to Taínos, Europeans, Africans and eventually North Americans--brought with them new flora, fauna and habits, all contributing to the demise of the native birds. Finally, in 1968, two governments began the work that continues today to restore the wild flocks. There are fascinating details about a 1539 fortress wall, leather jackets worn by parrots during hawk-avoidance training and materials used to mend an injured wing. The onomatopoeic derivation of the parrots' Taíno name, iguaca, is developed nicely in its repeated use as the parrots' call. By turns poetic and scientific, the text offers a wealth of information. Every paper-and-fabric collage is frame-worthy, from depictions of waterfalls and rain forest to sailing ships, hazards and, of course, parrots. From the commanding cover illustration to the playful image on the back, simply spectacular. (afterword, photos, chronology, sources) (Informational picture book. 8-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620140048
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/2013
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 74,123
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 960L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Susan L. Roth creates unique mixed-media collage illustrations that have appeared in numerous award-winning children's books, many of which she also wrote. Her book, Listen to the Wind, spent a year on the New York Times best seller list. The Mangrove Tree, which was released in 2011 and addressed Dr. Gordon Sato's mangrove tree-planting project, was the winner of Jane Addams Children's Book Award. Roth lives in New York. You can find her online at

Cindy Trumbore has been involved with young people's literature for most of her career. A former editor in children's book publishing, she now writes children's books, edits books for classrooms, and teaches writing. Her past titles include The Genie in the Book, Discovering the Titanic, and The Mangrove Tree with her friend Susan L. Roth. She lives with her family in New Jersey. Her Web site is

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