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The Race to Save the Lord God Bird
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The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

4.5 2
by Phillip Hoose
 

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The tragedy of extinction is explained through the dramatic story of a legendary bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and of those who tried to possess it, paint it, shoot it, sell it, and, in a last-ditch effort, save it. A powerful saga that sweeps through two hundred years of history, it introduces artists like John James Audubon, bird collectors like William

Overview

The tragedy of extinction is explained through the dramatic story of a legendary bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and of those who tried to possess it, paint it, shoot it, sell it, and, in a last-ditch effort, save it. A powerful saga that sweeps through two hundred years of history, it introduces artists like John James Audubon, bird collectors like William Brewster, and finally a new breed of scientist in Cornell's Arthur A. "Doc" Allen and his young ornithology student, James Tanner, whose quest to save the Ivory-bill culminates in one of the first great conservation showdowns in U.S. history, an early round in what is now a worldwide effort to save species. As hope for the Ivory-bill fades in the United States, the bird is last spotted in Cuba in 1987, and Cuban scientists join in the race to save it.

All this, plus Mr. Hoose's wonderful story-telling skills, comes together to give us what David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds calls "the most thorough and readable account to date of the personalities, fashions, economics, and politics that combined to bring about the demise of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker."

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird is the winner of the 2005 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2005 Bank Street - Flora Stieglitz Award.

This new edition of the author's award-winning history features a new chapter about the endlessly debated 2004 Arkansas "rediscovery" of the ivory-billed woodpecker that made headlines around the world, as well as an expanded introduction and more than a dozen new images.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“With power and humor, rage and sorrow, the narrative details the demise of the Lord God bird, braiding into its tale the stories of those who came into contact with it, from J.J. Audubon himself to James Tanner...Sidebars add engrossing details, and extensive back matter bespeaks exemplary nonfiction. But it's the author's passion that compels. Outstanding in every way.” —Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“In a thoroughly researched account based on interviews, primary materials, and published sources, Hoose tells how naturalists...raised, too late, awareness of the Ivory-bill's plight. Illustrated with archival photos and well provided with side bars, "important dates," maps, glossary, and index, this important summary of an environmental tragedy belongs in every library.” —The Horn Book

“This meticulously researched labor of love uses drama, suspense, and mystery to tell the story of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker...Hoose skillfully introduces each individual involved through interesting, historically accurate scenes. The author's passion for his subject and high standards for excellence result in readable, compelling nonfiction.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“The combination of the best of storytelling supported by extensive research...a must for any library serving youth or teachers.” —VOYA

“A compelling tale...readers will sense the urgency that remains, even if the Ivory-bill is gone.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hoose is a gifted storyteller. An engrossing story.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Fascinating, engrossing.” —Book Links

Publishers Weekly
Despite this chronicle's suspenseful title, this particular race seems to be over, and the Ivory-billed woodpecker (whose observers gasped, "Lord God!") appears to have lost. Those who raced to save the Ivory-bill and its Southern U.S. habitat, reports Hoose (We Were There, Too!), were neither as swift nor as wealthy as those who raced to shoot it and turn its preferred sweet-gum trees into lumber. Yet Hoose shares a compelling tale of a species' decline and, in the process, gives a history of ornithology, environmentalism and the U.S. With memorable anecdotes from naturalist writers, he tells how researchers such as John James Audubon shot Ivory-bills for study; later, binoculars, cameras and sound equipment changed scientific methods. Hoose also charts pre-Endangered Species Act collecting, when people responded to a rare bird by killing and stuffing it. In 1924, a pair of Ivory-bills were spotted in Florida, but soon vanished; "[collectors] had asked the county sheriff for a permit to hunt them." Further, Hoose explains how wars and the changing economy brought timber companies and the free labor of German POWs to devastate the Ivory-bills' virgin forests. In restrained language, he tells a tragic tale. His liveliest chapters concern James Tanner, the Ivory-bills' champion, who camped in swamps and climbed giant trees to document a few birds in the 1930s. "Can we get smart enough fast enough to save what remains of our biological heritage?" Hoose asks in conclusion. To him, the Ivory-bill represents no less than wilderness itself; readers will sense the urgency that remains, even if the Ivory-bill is gone. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
The efforts to save the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from extinction is the primary focus of this book, but the story line has the intrigue of a novel as it moves from nineteenth-century collectors to more modern naturalists who use binoculars, cameras, and sound machines to get permanent records of the bird. The story begins in North Carolina in 1809 with the father of ornithology in the United States, Alexander Wilson. It ends with a major unsuccessful effort to locate the bird in Louisiana in 2002. More than producing a book on a single bird or the conservation ethic, text and photos provide a history of the country from a wilderness with seemingly limitless wildlife to the nation of today's limited resources. It includes the birth of the Audubon Society, the "Plume War," economics of the lumber industry, and recent attempts to preserve habitat. Sidebars and notes provide insight and documentation without detracting from the story line. The combination of the best of storytelling supported by extensive research makes this book valuable for the social sciences as well as for the natural sciences. A wide range of students, even reluctant readers, will be fascinated by the text and photos. This book is certainly unique and a must for any library serving youth or teachers. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Farrar Straus Giroux, 208p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Source Notes. Chronology., $20. Ages 11 to 18.
—Marilyn Brien
Children's Literature
An informative book that reads like a story, this nonfiction work recounts the human fascination with the giant woodpecker, the Ivory-bill. Once a native of the southern United States and Cuba, the bird was most likely harried by loss of habitat and finally hunted to extinction. Hoose organizes his fascinating account chronologically. Along the way, he gives glimpses of John James Audubon at work, of collectors who shot their specimens to study them, of people using other methods to study birds such as recording or "shooting with a mike" that arose in the 1930s, of Jim Tanner whose deeply informed study of the Ivory-bill lasted for over half a century, other extinctions, and many other aspects of ecology and avian study of the times. Sidebars, such as the bird's many aliases (Log-cock, Pearly Bill, Indian Hen), archival photos (women with feathered hats), and side trips into the symbiotic role of insects and Ivory-bills make readers think about this marvel of nature. Essential back matter includes a chapter-by-chapter narrative of sources that suggest further compelling historical reading, a time line of important dates in the protection of birds, glossary, and an index. There is little hope for another sighting of the Lord God Bird (Hoose hedges slightly until Cuba is open for birders). The author mentions some of the "gifts" the bird left us: much improved recording devices, a model study of a bird and a conservation plan, the rise of the Nature Conservancy and its plan to save wild land, and more awareness of birds. Destined to become a classic in the field, this book is essential reading for any birder and a rousing story for all, even those who thought they weren't much interested.2004, Melanie Kroupa/Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 12 up.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-This meticulously researched labor of love uses drama, suspense, and mystery to tell the story of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the first modern endangered species. Its story is also the story of America, its economics and its politics, its settlement and its development, its plume hats and its environmental protection laws. In 1800, the large and impressive woodpecker lived in the southeastern United States, from Texas to the Carolinas and as far north as Indiana. By 1937, it could be found on only one tract of land in northeastern Louisiana. Its last confirmed sighting was in Cuba in 1987. Hoose skillfully introduces each individual involved through interesting, historically accurate scenes. Readers meet John James Audubon as well as less familiar people who played a part in the Ivory-bill story as artists, collectors, ornithologists, scientists, and political activists. Sharp, clear, black-and-white archival photos and reproductions appear throughout. The author's passion for his subject and high standards for excellence result in readable, compelling nonfiction, particularly appealing to young biologists and conservationists.-Laurie von Mehren, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brecksville, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250073716
Publisher:
Square Fish
Publication date:
02/16/2016
Pages:
222
Sales rank:
548,773
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

From THE RACE TO SAVE THE LORD GOD BIRD:
INTRODUCTION
A BIRD OF THE SIXTH WAVE

To become extinct is the greatest tragedy in nature. Extinction means that all the members of an entire species are dead; that an entire genetic family is gone, forever. Or, as ornithologist William Beebe put it, "When the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."

Some might argue that this doesn't seem so tragic. After all, according to scientists, 99 percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. And there have already been at least five big waves of mass extinction, caused by everything from meteorites to drought. The fifth and most recent wave, which took place a mere 65 million years ago, destroyed the dinosaurs along with about two-thirds of all animal species alive at that time. In other words, we've been through this before.

But the sixth wave, the one that's happening now, is different. For the first time, a single species, Homo sapiens-humankind-is wiping out thousands of life forms by consuming and altering the earth's resources. Humans now use up more than half of the world's fresh water and nearly half of everything that's grown on land. The sixth wave isn't new; it started about twelve thousand years ago when humans began clearing land to plant food crops. But our impact upon the earth is accelerating so rapidly now that thousands of species are being lost every year. Each of these species belongs to a complicated web of energy and activity called an ecosystem. Together, these webs connect the smallest mites to the greatest trees.

This is a story abouta species of the sixth wave, a species that was-and maybe still is-a bird of the deep forest. It took only a century for Campephilus principalis, more commonly known as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, to slip from a flourishing life in the sunlit forest canopy to a marginal existence in the shadow of extinction. Many species declined during that same century, but the Ivory-bill became the singular object of a tug-of-war between those who destroyed and sold its habitat and a new breed of scientists and conservationists dedicated to preserving species by saving habitat. In some ways, the Ivory-bill was the first modern endangered species, in that some of the techniques used today to try to save imperiled plants and animals were pioneered in the race to rescue this magnificent bird.

I say the Ivory-bill "maybe still is" a bird of the deep forest because some observers, including some very good scientists, believe that a few Ivory-bills continue to exist. Since I first became interested in birds in 1975, I have read or heard dozens of reports that someone has just caught a fresh glimpse or heard the unmistakable call of the Ivory-bill. Again and again, even the slimmest of rumors sends hopeful bird-watchers lunging for their boots, smearing mosquito repellent onto their arms, and bolting out the door to look for it. Year after year they return with soggy boots, bug-bitten arms, and no evidence.

The Ivory-bill is a hard bird to give up on. It was one of the most impressive creatures ever seen in the United States. Those who wrote about it-from John James Audubon to Theodore Roosevelt-were astonished by its beauty and strength. They gave it names like "Lord God bird" and "Good God bird." Fortunately, in 1935, when there were just a few left, four scientists from Cornell University took a journey deep into a vast, primitive swamp and came back with a sound recording of the phantom's voice and twelve seconds of film that showed the great bird in motion. It was a gift from, and for, the ages.

Cornell's image sparked a last-ditch effort led by the Audubon Society to save the Ivory-bill in its wilderness home before it was too late. But others were equally intent on clearing and selling the trees before the conservationists could rescue the species.

The race to save the Ivory-bill became an early round in what is now a worldwide struggle to save endangered species. Humans challenged the Ivory-bill to adapt very quickly to rapidly shifting circumstances, but as events unfolded, the humans who tried to rescue the bird had to change rapidly, too. The Ivory-bill's saga-perhaps unfinished-continues to give us a chance to learn and adapt. As we consider the native plants and animals around us, we can remind ourselves of the race to save the Lord God bird and ask, "What can we do to protect them in their native habitats while they're still here with us?"

THE RACE TO SAVE THE LORD GOD BIRD copyright 2004 by Phillip Hoose. Used with the permission of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Meet the Author

Phillip Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs and articles. Although he first wrote for adults, he turned his attention to children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters. His book Claudette Colvin won a National Book Award and was dubbed a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009. He is also the author of Hey, Little Ant, co-authored by his daughter, Hannah, It's Our World, Too!, and We Were There, Too!, a National Book Award finalist. He has received a Jane Addams Children's Book Award, a Christopher Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, among numerous honors. He was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in the towns of South Bend, Angola, and Speedway, Indiana. He was educated at Indiana University and the Yale School of Forestry. He lives in Portland, Maine.

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Race to Save the Lord God Bird 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you think all the "good" things are disappearing here is another one. Just think what we have done in the name of advancement.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this brilliant narrative of the process of extinction of the Lord God Bird, we see the history of conservation and realize the impact we have on this fragile world. Both adults and children will find this book fascinating - it reads like a thriller. In the process we see how collectors, fashion, building, etc. impact the environment. I'm a careless consumer, but this book made me really think!