Parrots Over Puerto Ricoby Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore
A nonfiction picture book about the history of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican parrot, which was brought back from the brink of extinction.
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
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)
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 susanlroth.com.
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 cindykane.net.
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