Townsend's Warbler

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the era of America's westward expansion two migratory accounts entwine--men on horseback and birds on wing. In the spring of 1834, John Townsend and Thomas Nuttall leave Philadelphia determined to be the first naturalists to cross the entire U.S. Simultaneously, flocks of an unnamed bird abandon their native Central America for northern breeding grounds and a fateful rendezvous with the naturalists. Fleischman's exceptional sense of counterpoint plays not so much in his prose but in the story's textures. Events and sensibilities of the two migrations rise and fall like the land and the air currents they ride--exuberant first sightings of exotic birds and unfamiliar plants are interspersed with the ravages of weather, Indian war parties and starvation; the hardship and risk as man pushes through the wilds is crowned by a tiny bird's similar effort. Fleischman's biographical, mostly undramatic prose presents a foil for the fresh, immediate words of Townsend's own diary. Black-and-white paintings of the era draw readers into the strangeness of the new land, helping them share Townsend's ``ecstasy--when a specimen such as he has never before seen meets his eye.'' Yet this is a quiet ecstasy that may be lost on younger readers. Ages 8-12. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7-- Fleischman leaves behind the worlds of fiction and poetry to chronicle the discovery of a new species of bird. Employing techniques honed in his other works--most notably the use of alternating narratives to reveal simultaneous action--he introduces John Kirk Townsend and Thomas Nuttall, the former obsessed with birds and the latter with plants. In 1834, they set out to become the first trained naturalists to travel across the U. S. to the Pacific. The author includes many particulars of the journey, including harsh weather, encounters with Indians, and the dearth of food and water, as well as the men's numerous observations on their surroundings. Passages from Townsend's journal add authenticity. Also described are the warblers' migrations north and south and their eventual discovery by the two men. Unfortunately, and in spite of a profusion of black-and-white illustrations presented in a handsome layout, what could have been an exciting account is dull and lacks momentum; the naturalists never emerge as engaging figures. In spite of the book's brevity, only highly motivated readers will follow this journey to its conclusion. --Ellen Fader, Westport Public Library, CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060218751
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1992
  • Series: A Charlotte Zolotow Bk.
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years

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