117 books directly related to birds 📚

All 117 bird books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

By David Allen Sibley,

Book cover of The Sibley Guide to Birds

Why this book?

This beautifully illustrated, comprehensive book is a must-have for bird enthusiasts. It is not only a useful guide to identifying birds, but also an illuminating source on little-known aspects of bird behavior.


Birds as Individuals

By Len Howard,

Book cover of Birds as Individuals

Why this book?

A British musicologist opens the windows to her country home and lets wild birds come in and nest there. This unique study allows her (and us) to observe these feathered sprites up close and personal. Many befriend their human hostess, with remarkable revelations.


Birdology: Adventures with Hip Hop Parrots, Cantankerous Cassowaries, Crabby Crows, Peripatetic Pigeons, Hens, Hawks, and Hummingbirds

By Sy Montgomery,

Book cover of Birdology: Adventures with Hip Hop Parrots, Cantankerous Cassowaries, Crabby Crows, Peripatetic Pigeons, Hens, Hawks, and Hummingbirds

Why this book?

True to form, Montgomery advances our understanding of birds through stories and adventures from the field. An accessible book from a celebrated writer whose love of animals is infectious.


The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human

By Noah Strycker,

Book cover of The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal about Being Human

Why this book?

Packing a huge amount of research onto every page, Strycker, who in his 2015 big year logged a record-setting 6,042 bird species, engagingly analyzes the biology and behavior of penguins, magpies, hummingbirds, albatrosses, and more to explore how the lives of birds are simultaneously incredibly alien to and indelibly intertwined with those of humans in activities and emotions as diverse as altruism, dancing, seduction, and fear. His insights, delivered with a light touch, may well change the worldview of those who think that humans are somehow more worthy than any other animal on the planet.


Fledgling

By Hannah Bourne-Taylor,

Book cover of Fledgling

Why this book?

Here’s how an intense, almost obsessive focus on wildlife can bring solace from chaos and alienation. Young bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moves to Ghana as a ‘trailing spouse,’ and it’s the fauna that keeps her going as she struggles to rebuild her identity. Two stray dogs leap into her life; a pangolin needs saving from someone’s dinner table. But it’s the act of saving a swift and a mannikin finch, nurturing and releasing the birds back into the wild, that provides the key to this closely observed, touching story. At first, the finch doesn’t want to re-wild – and Hannah realizes with a shock that she’s humanized it. Explores interesting dilemmas about intervening on nature’s behalf, and whether one act of compassion can really make a difference. A book full of hope.


Backpack Explorer: Bird Watch: What Will You Find?

By Editors of Storey Publishing, Oana Befort (illustrator),

Book cover of Backpack Explorer: Bird Watch: What Will You Find?

Why this book?

Oh, how I wish I had this book when I was a child! Each brightly illustrated page is rich with close-up photos of various birds to look for, field guides, and tips to follow. It’s jam-packed with every activity bird-loving littles could hope for—games, crafts, a birding log for sightings, sticker badges, and a real magnifying glass! Bird Watch is an excellent book for school field trips, family nature adventures, and the perfect gift for young explorers.

Snow Birds

By Kirsten Hall, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Snow Birds

Why this book?

I adore books that introduce a subject through the magic of poetry. Rhyme, rhythm, meter, and brevity are all appealing factors that keep a young audience engaged. In Snow Birds, the author and illustrator take us on a snowy poetic journey through mountains, forests, and backyards to give us a glimpse of the birds that don’t migrate but stay and brave the harsh climate of wintertime. This book fits the bill for all bird-loving, word-loving kids and adults alike.

Hello, World! Birds

By Jill McDonald,

Book cover of Hello, World! Birds

Why this book?

It's never too early to introduce children to the world of birds! This colorful board book with simple information about our feathered friends is a perfect choice. "Peck Peck Peck, the noisy woodpecker is looking for food inside a tree trunk."—curious babies and toddlers will learn animal names, behaviors, and habitats in this sturdy take-along book that is just the right size for little hands!

Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds

By Sam Keen,

Book cover of Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds

Why this book?

In Sightings, Sam Keen lays a gentle hand on your shoulder and invites you to share in his love affair with birds. From the Indigo Bunting to the Lord God bird, he describes his various encounters, weaving bits of his own history with illuminating glimpses into the avian realm. This slim volume is beautifully illustrated with paintings by Mary Woodin and venerable quotes, reminding us that the world, viewed up close, is a sacred place designed for those with open hearts.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization

By Andrew Lawler,

Book cover of Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization

Why this book?

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? might be the worst title of all time, but it is a wonderfully surprising and fascinating book. There are tasty nuggets here for everyone (sorry/not sorry for the pun). Did you know that Mexicans eat more eggs per capita than any other people in the world? Or how many different slang terms and metaphors there are for chickens through time? (“Biology can’t explain why our favored slang word for the male organ refers to a bird that lacks one.” Ha!) Or that in the mid-nineteenth century, Britain and America were absolutely obsessed with raising exotic “fancy” chickens? And that pound for pound, chicken releases only one-tenth the greenhouse gases of red meat such as hamburgers? Read up on the world’s favorite bird and laugh while you’re at it with Lawler’s book.


Birds

By Robert Bateman, Kathryn Dean,

Book cover of Birds

Why this book?

Bob Bateman is a great wildlife observer and a consummate artist, passionate about conservation. This beautifully illustrated book carries the message of care for the environment, its inhabitants, the world! And it carries it in gentle words and striking artistic paintings of nature. His paintings are accurate and realistic, made with superb artistic skill, I love to just flick open the book and stare. It makes you realise the beauty of the natural world. I have met Bob a couple of times, he is a thoughtful, measured, and highly knowledgeable man. His artistic skill is extraordinary.


The End of the End of the Earth: Essays

By Jonathan Franzen,

Book cover of The End of the End of the Earth: Essays

Why this book?

Compared with many of those writing about bird conservation, using his sabre-like pen, Jonathan Franzen, gets to the very heart of the issues. No one else comes close to opening up the obscene bloody thorax of Mediterranean bird-killing. In this set of essays, Franzen is the master surgeon, desperate to diagnose, expose and extract the cancer that permeates this entire region. Several million small migrant birds, such as golden orioles, bee-eaters, and warblers, are shot, trapped, and eaten here each year. These millions are from bird populations across Europe and Africa already decimated by a multitude of other things including climate change, cats, and habitat loss.


Mama Built a Little Nest

By Jennifer Ward, Steve Jenkins (illustrator),

Book cover of Mama Built a Little Nest

Why this book?

I recommend this book because of my love of Steve Jenkins’s illustrations. I think he is one of the great illustrators of animals for kids' books, and his work is a perfect blend of accuracy and abstraction. In this book, his illustrations are paired with Jennifer Ward’s charming text that’s well suited to read aloud to the youngest children.  


Feathers: Not Just for Flying

By Melissa Stewart, Sarah S. Brannen (illustrator),

Book cover of Feathers: Not Just for Flying

Why this book?

For this recommendation, I’ve chosen something different. 

Every bird nerd should know the bird basics, and Melissa Stewart’s book on feathers is the perfect place to begin. You’re sure to learn something new. I did. I had no idea that feathers came in so many different shapes and sizes. You might be surprised, too, to discover all the things feathers can do. I won’t give them all away, but some are used for warmth, and others for floating! 

Bird lovers will also appreciate the illustrations by Sarah Brannen, which resemble a naturalist’s sketchbook. They may even inspire you to create one of your own.


Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

By Annette LeBlanc Cate,

Book cover of Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Why this book?

What can I say? I am an adult who’s an avid birder (I take joy in observing them daily), I work with wild bird rehabilitation (sounds like a sweet job, but it’s actually quite taxing), I photograph birds (I try!), I count the bird species in my backyard (over 100 species and know many of them personally), and I write professionally about birds - - and I learned so much about birds from this clever children’s book!  It’s a must-have for any budding birder and birding family. I love the quirky design (speech bubbles!) -and most importantly, the cleverly presented facts about birding and the bird world. Check it out.



Little Bird's Day

By Sally Morgan, Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr (illustrator),

Book cover of Little Bird's Day

Why this book?

This is another delight that we found in our local library. The illustrations and design of Little Bird’s Day are exquisite – the background colours of the page change as the story moves through the day and at night the page is covered in stars except for the outline of a bird as it dreams about flying across the sky. The story is beautiful and the artwork by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is outstanding. It is no surprise that this book was nominated for several book awards in 2020. It should have won all the prizes. Another excellent Indigenous author and illustrator that I hope more people will read and share with their families.

October, October

By Katya Balen,

Book cover of October, October

Why this book?

October lives in the woods with her father where their lives are surrounded by peace and nature. October’s life sees a drastic change after her father has an accident and needs to go to the hospital.  Suddenly, October finds herself living with her mum in the city. Katya Balen is the most beautiful writer and this book is a literary feast for the soul. 


Asha and the Spirit Bird

By Jasbinder Bilan,

Book cover of Asha and the Spirit Bird

Why this book?

Asha is a wonderfully brave character who sets out on a dangerous adventure to find her father. She connects with a lamagaia bird, which she believes is the spirit of her grandmother. This bird leads her from her village at the foothills of the Himalayas through India. I loved the exotic setting and the realistic challenges Asha faces. She rises to each challenge with bravery and continues on with loyalty for her friends and family. A beautiful, inspiring book.


Bob the Artist

By Marion Deuchars,

Book cover of Bob the Artist

Why this book?

With simple and stunning illustrations we see long-legged Bob the bird learn to celebrate himself with a relaxed and creative flourish. Once seen, you will never forget those wonderful knobbly knees! Bob’s adventures cleverly and accessibly introduce art appreciation in a whole new way as he celebrates not only his own individuality but that of great artists too.


Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds, and Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving

By Frederique Lavoipierre,

Book cover of Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds, and Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving

Why this book?

This author’s thesis sounds radical, but it shouldn’t be. She argues persuasively for us to leave bugs in our yards and gardens be, or even to encourage them. Why? Because for every pest, there is a natural enemy. Tolerate a couple of tomato hornworms and they’ll become beautiful sphinx moths, zipping around your flowerbeds, pollinating “more than 200 plants in less than 7 minutes!” Leave nibbling aphids in your garden, and hungry ladybugs will show up and dispatch them. Stop damaging the food web by using pesticides and herbicides/weedkillers. Learn how closely plants and animals are related; indeed, they co-evolved. Such an interesting and important book!


Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone With the Birds

By Bryan Nelson, June Nelson,

Book cover of Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone With the Birds

Why this book?

I can barely remember when, as a child in the mid-1960s, I met a young couple of biologists who had just spent a year living in a tiny camp among the seabirds of Galapagos, devoid of contact with the outside world. Part diary, part behavioral field notes, Bryan’s enduring book, Galapagos, Islands of Birds has just been rewritten and expanded into a brand-new edition by his widow, over 50 years later — a charming and timeless volume.


Superlative Birds

By Leslie Bulion, Robert Meganck (illustrator),

Book cover of Superlative Birds

Why this book?

Learn about the biggest, brightest, smelliest, loudest, featheriest birds on a tour with a chatty chickadee. Each page features a short poem about a superlative bird and includes additional background on the bird’s natural history. There’s also a short glossary and a guide to resources on bird watching and conservation notes. The author even explains the rhyming patterns and structure of each poem. Fun and informative!


A Secret Of Birds & Bone

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave,

Book cover of A Secret Of Birds & Bone

Why this book?

Sofia lives a quiet life with her mother, brother, and a pet crow. But her mother is a bone-binder, famous for magic keys and keepsakes made of bone, and when a silver-veiled stranger suddenly appears with a request one day a chain of events is set in motion that will challenge everything Sofia thought she knew. Taken to the city orphanage after her mother’s arrest, Sofia discovers a sinister mystery and meets a thief hiding secrets of his own. With nothing but a bone locket made by her mother, she must find the courage to escape through the catacombs and save everyone she loves. This is a dark, spooky book perfect for young readers wanting a scary thrill. It’s beautifully written and richly textured with imagery of birds and bones, shadows and secret places. 


Wordy Birdy

By Tammi Sauer, Dave Mottram (illustrator),

Book cover of Wordy Birdy

Why this book?

I like to chat, and like most other people, whether it’s because I’m thinking about something else, or busy, or just simply not paying attention, sometimes I “listen,” but I don’t “hear.” Wordy Birdy is a fun read with a great reminder about why it is so important to listen to others and pay attention to our surroundings. 


Book of British Birds

By Drive Publications (editor),

Book cover of Book of British Birds

Why this book?

The Book of British Birds is one of several comprehensive reference books produced around half a century ago for the Reader’s Digest. They were written without jargon and have become classics. The illustrations in this bird volume are excellent, with bird-by-bird descriptions, followed by a range of fascinating topics, such as how birds care for their plumage, camouflage, how they sleep, and courtship displays. Some information is now itself history – who would have thought (for example) that the ubiquitous starling is now on the Red List of UK birds?


Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves Mystery

By Nicole Givens Kurtz,

Book cover of Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves Mystery

Why this book?

As an author, I love to cross genres, to redefine the boundaries of established sci-fi norms. Nicole Givens Kurtz does just that. Kill Three Birds is a skillfully executed blend of procedural mystery, fantasy, and political drama.

The premise? An explosive investigation on the murder of local women in an alternative society of humanoid birds organized in castes. A masterclass in world building and characterization.

For many decades, science fiction has been seen, labeled as inflexible, formulaic, and overcomplicated. Nicole Givens Kurtz leads us to new territories: she aims at preserving the complexity and layers of the science fiction genre and subgenres while broadening the spectrum of its themes and narrative structures.


Nest

By Inga Simpson,

Book cover of Nest

Why this book?

In my living room, I have a shelf of discarded birds’ nests, and my sofa is a beachy aqua colour. It’s no wonder then, that I was initially drawn to this book’s cover. The story itself was a pleasant surprise. I can best describe this novel as a nature meditation because, when I started reading, Inga Simpson’s prose seemed to slow time. I became less interested in achieving my daily tasks and paid minute attention to the birds and trees outside my window. Although a story of loss and heartache is weaved through this Nest, it is less important than the gaps between the plot. I am convinced this delightful novel about an art teacher and her garden added a year or two to my life! 


The Unfeathered Bird

By Katerina van Grouw,

Book cover of The Unfeathered Bird

Why this book?

So you want to paint dinosaurs? An artist depicting a modern animal works from life, or works from photographs. Neither option is open to the dinosaur artist. But now that we know that dinosaurs are evolved from birds we have modern examples that can give us a start – at least we can see the layout of muscles and how they bulk out the body around the skeleton. This book is a wonderful atlas of bird parts and can provide a perfect guide to how bones are articulated and how the muscles are built up. It is the nearest that a dinosaur artist will get to a direct visual reference! And it is so beautifully done that it works as a coffee table book – something to be just looked at and admired.


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why this book?

No writer, whether aiming for publication or personal reflection, should be without this classic (and classically entertaining) guide that is guaranteed to inspire the writer to put her butt in the chair and to accept the truth that all first drafts are shitty. Honestly, Bird by Bird is one of the first ones that made me believe I could write. Anne Lamott also helped me learn to not take it all so seriously with her notion that we humans “are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” in contrast to sheep lice, who she says “do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.”


The Human Nature of Birds: A Scientific Discovery with Startling Implications

By Theodore Xenophon Barber,

Book cover of The Human Nature of Birds: A Scientific Discovery with Startling Implications

Why this book?

Yes, it’s a bit dated, but it was a bold, pioneering book for its day. Barber doesn’t shrink from describing birds as they are: intelligent, flexible, emotional animals with lives and personalities.


Extinct Birds

By Julian Hume,

Book cover of Extinct Birds

Why this book?

This book is an encyclopedia of recently extinct birds, and anyone who is interested in this subject should get it. My own book on this matter (also titled Extinct Birds) is a romantic ramble through the subject – accurate and informative in its own way, but serving a rather different purpose to the volume under consideration here.

Julian Hume’s book contains everything that you might wish to know about any recently extinct avian species; indeed it contains virtually everything significant that is actually known! Sometimes the accounts are lengthy, sometimes they are more meagre but in this latter case, it is simply because so little is known about the bird in question.


The Beak Book

By Robin Page,

Book cover of The Beak Book

Why this book?

When is a beak not just a beak? When it's a filter, a drill, or an air conditioner, of course! Each beautifully illustrated page focuses on one bird and the wonderful (and sometimes strange) things it can do with its beak. Kids will love learning about the tools birds come equipped with, and perhaps most importantly, the one they use for breaking out of their eggs!

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

By Phillip Hoose,

Book cover of The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

Why this book?

Hoose tells the fascinating history of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a magnificent creature of the swamps and forests of the southeastern US. The book sweeps through two hundred years of history as the bird is hunted, harassed, and its habitat destroyed. By the twentieth century, the birds are so scarce that ornithologists launch the first of many searches, heading into the swamps to find evidence of the bird. To this day, the mystery remains maddeningly unsolved: does the ivory-billed woodpecker still exist or is has it been driven to extinction? A haunting story and one that might make you cry.


Lottie's New Friend (Lottie's World)

By Petra Mathers,

Book cover of Lottie's New Friend (Lottie's World)

Why this book?

Lottie is a wise, steady chicken and Herbie is a silly, insecure duck, but their strong friendship is at the core of all the stories in this five-book series. Herbie is extremely jealous of Lottie’s new friend, Dodo. While Lottie is away, Dodo gets stuck on her roof, overcome with a fear of heights, and Herbie comes to her rescue. Herbie feels much better when Dodo says, Now I know…why Lottie says you can always count on Herbie…and that you are ze apple of her eye.” Our whole family is very attached to the endearing personalities of Lottie and Herbie and the stained, worn pages of our copies show how frequently they have been read.


Chez Bob

By Bob Shea,

Book cover of Chez Bob

Why this book?

A book about a lazy alligator who opens a restaurant on his nose so he doesn’t have to chase birds before eating them? Yes, please! I’ve always been a huge fan of Bob Shea’s work, but this book is next-level awesome. The voice is impeccable! It’s impossible to read this book without slipping into your best lazy alligator voice. The masterfully chosen words will draw it right out of you. I didn’t even know I had a lazy alligator voice until I read this book. My husband is not nearly as enamored with children’s books as I am, but even he loved Chez Bob and laughed a total of 11 times. There is no doubt this book is fiercely funny, but it is also utterly charming. Seeing Bob’s affection grow for his feathered friends is what makes him an endearing and enduring character. 


Orison for a Curlew: In Search for a Bird on the Edge of Extinction

By Horatio Clare,

Book cover of Orison for a Curlew: In Search for a Bird on the Edge of Extinction

Why this book?

Clare is another consummate wordsmith – he even managed to write an engaging book about spending months on container ships – but with Orison he manages to weave a fascinating story using beautiful prose and superb writing to bring intelligent discussions and good research to life while introducing us to key conservation personalities he meets during his journeys.
Clare sets out to search for the highly endangered and secretive slender-billed curlew in a range of wetlands in a troubled Eastern Europe and discovers inspiring if sometimes eccentric movers and shakers devoted to saving our wild places.
And how about this for a profound final sentence in a book: ‘Too much certainty is a miserable thing, while the unknowable has a pristine beauty and a wonder with no end.’


How to Find a Bird

By Jennifer Ward, Diana Sudyka (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Find a Bird

Why this book?

Both Jennifer Ward and Diana Sudyka are two of my favorite kid lit creators, and this brilliant collaboration begs to be read aloud. Ward’s lyrical text sings as an introductory guide for the littlest bird watchers, showing them where to look for birds: up to see them fly and roost—but not just up—down on the ground where birds nest, straight ahead where they blend with bark, on and under the water. And if you put out a birdfeeder, all you need is a window-view. But what’s the best way to find a bird? To listen—birdsong is all around us! Sudyka’s gorgeously intricate art paints the avian details of all the found birds. Don’t miss the back matter for bird-watching tips.


Mel Fell

By Corey R. Tabor,

Book cover of Mel Fell

Why this book?

You’ll fall along with the main character, Mel, a kingfisher, in this clever vertical read beginning right from the title page. The vertical format humorously highlights the action of Mel “falling,” faster and faster, as squirrels and bees, ants and the eight hands of spiders try to come to her rescue until—SPLASH! See what happens when you rotate the book. Did Mel really fall? Tabor’s art is delightful and amusing.


Vulture View

By April Pulley Sayre, Steve Jenkins (illustrator),

Book cover of Vulture View

Why this book?

In mostly rhyming couplets, Sayre’s book celebrates the lowly turkey vulture, an unsung and underappreciated creature that plays a very vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem—scavengers are nature’s clean-up crew! View vultures as they circle, soar, and glide on thermals, up, UP! Watch them sniff, search, seek and eat things that reek, the more rotten the better. Vultures feast, then clean and preen. At night, they roost and rest in trees like families. Jenkins’ cut paper collages complete this homage to the venerable turkey vulture. Explore more turkey vulture facts in the concluding pages.


You Nest Here with Me

By Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Melissa Sweet (illustrator)

Book cover of You Nest Here with Me

Why this book?

Yolen and Stemple are a mother-daughter dream team duo and creators of many bird books including Yolen’s classic, Owl Moon. This birdy-lullaby has a soothing read-aloud rhythm as a mother tucks her tired nestling-child in bed. She recounts the places where various birds nest, from pigeons on ledges and catbirds in hedges, to owls in oak tree boles and hawks on telephone poles bound by the reassuring refrain, "You nest here with me.” Sweet’s blue-green color palette offers a calming and soporific counterpart and a nod to night-time. Learn more about the featured birds, their diet and nesting habits, and this birding family in the book’s back pages.


Feathers for Lunch

By Lois Ehlert,

Book cover of Feathers for Lunch

Why this book?

Although many of Lois Ehlert’s works are now classics, I wasn’t familiar with her work until I was an adult. Her illustration style and simplicity of her books have had a big impact on my work. This book about the greatest enemy of backyard birds (the housecat) is graphically gorgeous and (spoiler alert) ends with a hungry cat and all the birds unharmed. 


Beaks!

By Sneed B. Collard, Robin Brickman (illustrator),

Book cover of Beaks!

Why this book?

Not only is this book stunning – sculpted paper illustrations that appear 3D – it offers a flock-full of information about birds and the many types of beaks one may find on them. A beak isn’t just a beak, after all. With over 10,000 bird species in the world, it’s not surprising to learn that bird beaks come in many shapes and sizes, each with a specific purpose to a bird’s habitat necessary for survival in this big, wide world. Although geared for young readers, this book will inspire readers of all ages to take notice of bird beaks. Anytime we can encourage young readers to engage with nature and the world around them, that’s a good thing, don’t you think?


Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends

By Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Clover Robin (illustrator),

Book cover of Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends

Why this book?

Believe it or not, a long time ago hunters would go out on Christmas day and shoot as many birds as they could. I know! What an awful tradition! Yikes! Fortunately, Frank Chapman thought it was awful, too. This book shows how he campaigned for bird lovers to count birds rather than shoot them. 

Today, millions of people participate in the Christmas Bird Count. Their data helps scientists keep track of bird populations. The best part is that anyone can participate. Counting Birds reminds us that one person really can make a difference.


What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

By Jon Young,

Book cover of What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

Why this book?

I first encountered this book while taking a wildlife tracking class that Jon Young had a hand in creating. I was awe-struck by the stories Young tells in What the Robin Knows. He has learned from years of patience and still observation to find animals in the forest and to know how each animal like an owl, hawk, coyote, or the neighborhood cat, is moving on the landscape by listening to the vocalizations and watching the behavior of local birds, like the ubiquitous Robin. This is a perfect book to read if you are longing to re-create your connection with nature, even in your own backyard.


Stellaluna

By Janell Cannon,

Book cover of Stellaluna

Why this book?

This is another favorite book of my children when they were young. Also a 25-year anniversary book, the words and illustrations are both done by the author. This story covers a few big emotions for children. It begins with separation and loneliness but ends on a positive note of courage and an unlikely friendship.

Stellaluna is a baby fruit bat who is not old enough to fly. One day she unexpectedly falls from her nest. Now she is alone and lost. She clutches onto a branch but ends up falling again, this time into a bird's nest. Can a bat become a bird? Do they eat the same things and do they like to sleep at the same time? This is a wonderful book and the illustrations are divine. I recommended this book because it is a book that I will be reading to my grandchildren.  It is a book of survival and strength and never giving up. This book makes me feel like nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough.


Sasol Birds - The Inside Story

By Rael Loon, Hélène Loon,

Book cover of Sasol Birds - The Inside Story

Why this book?

Sasol Birds – The Inside Story is a fantastic book for learning more about the life-histories of southern African bird species. As a life-long safari guide, I am particularly drawn to books that can enhance my ability to interpret nature for my guests. This is simply the best book for intriguing and fascinating stories about birds of southern Africa. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with a keen interest in African birds and also for budding safari guides and naturalists who want to develop their guiding skills to incorporate birds. 


Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds

By Olivia Gentile,

Book cover of Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds

Why this book?

This is the true story of Phoebe Snetsinger and her bizarre and often dangerous quest to see more birds on the planet than any other human. Her quest to hold the world record for most bird species seen is a great story in itself but it is the way the author delves into Snetsinger’s character and her relationships with her family and others that are equally as fascinating. I love learning about what drives people to have absolute obsessions in life that they place above all else – relationships, health, safety, etc. I have been to many of the locations in the book and seen many of the bird species mentioned as well. The author captures all of this in a fast-paced book that will be loved by birders everywhere and anyone who wants a compelling read about obsession!


Cinders and Sparrows

By Stefan Bachmann,

Book cover of Cinders and Sparrows

Why this book?

When Zita Brydgeborn, an orphan employed as a cranky widow’s maid, receives an unexpected letter delivered by a scarecrow she is thrust into the heart of a mysterious battle between good and evil. Discovering that she might be the only living heir to a dynasty of witches, she must learn more than spells and charms if she hopes to survive the foe who claimed her family’s souls. With a clever crow and two castle servants as her closest friends, Zita confronts a tangle of family secrets and sinister magic to break a deadly curse. This book is a delightfully creepy read with all the elements of my favorite stories: a brave girl with a hidden past, bird imagery, witchcraft, fiercely loyal friends, and family secrets. It’s beautifully written and strikes the perfect balance between spooky danger and gentle humor.


Bird Hugs

By Ged Adamson,

Book cover of Bird Hugs

Why this book?

I couldn’t resist a title with two of my favorite things, hugs and birds. (In fact, I’ve written early readers about birds.) Bird Hugs, by author-illustrator Ged Adamson, tells the story of Bernard, a sweet little bird with wings too long to fly. He tries to fly many times, but isn’t successful. He feels useless and lonely until he meets an orangutan who needs a hug. It turns out Bernard’s long wings are just perfect for hugging. One hug leads to another and soon all the animals come to Bernard when they need comfort. Bird Hugs tells a lovely story with a positive message about fitting in when you’re different and, of course, how a hug can brighten your day. 


A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects

By David Callahan,

Book cover of A History of Birdwatching in 100 Objects

Why this book?

The author was one of the earliest (if not the earliest) to write a history of a subject using a specific number of objects. In this book, he describes the development of observing birds through the medium of 100 objects, of which a surprising selection is presented, all well illustrated, from prehistoric paintings to more recent technology.  Possibly the most curious is a stuffed extinct dodo at the Horniman Museum in London. It was actually a deceptive piece made by a leading taxidermist using plaster casts, chicken wings, and swan, goose, and ostrich feathers.


Birds Britannica

By Mark Cocker, Richard Mabey,

Book cover of Birds Britannica

Why this book?

This is a glorious bird-by-bird book, filled with photographs and lots of information and first-hand accounts, including folklore and history, with copious endnotes and references. It was first published in 2005 and reissued in 2020. The book is divided into different bird families, starting with the Diver family, the Grebe family, and the Albatross family, so it can be read systematically or by dipping in and out. Birds Britannica perhaps deserves the name ‘coffee-table book’ – being so heavy, it is almost impossible to read unless seated (with a coffee) at a table. 


The Birds of Devon

By W. S. M. D'urban,

Book cover of The Birds of Devon

Why this book?

Numerous books were compiled in the 19th century on birds of specific counties, which are now historic documents. My favourite is The Birds of Devon, first published in 1892 by William D’Urban and Murray Mathew, who had known each other since childhood. It has wonderful, evocative descriptions of landscapes and of the immense numbers of birds that could still be seen and heard then, though the authors do give warnings about landscapes being destroyed, in particular by the railways and by the drainage of marshes and moors. Readers today may want to skip their numerous lists, but their descriptions depict a vanished world.


Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds

By Chris Chester,

Book cover of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds

Why this book?

An electrician and his wife rescue an orphaned baby house sparrow and raise him into adulthood and beyond. This beautifully and at times hilariously told story is full of precious revelations about the rich personality of a bird routinely overlooked by us.


The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

By Mark Obmascik,

Book cover of The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

Why this book?

If you saw the disappointing-at-best 2011 film based very loosely on this book, don’t let it color your opinion; if you haven’t seen it, buy the book instead. It follows three birders as they traverse North America during 1998’s “big year,” an informal, self-reported 365-day competition in which bird-spotting junkies chase down as many species as they can. It’s an engrossing peek into a fascinating, quirky subculture that will sweep you along on an irresistible armchair roadtrip-with-a-purpose.


That Quail, Robert

By Margaret Stanger,

Book cover of That Quail, Robert

Why this book?

Originally published in 1966, this charming illustrated tale continues to sell briskly. Written by the neighbor of a Cape Cod doctor who finds a quail egg abandoned in his yard and warms it with a table lamp until it hatches, it tells of how Robert, as the bird (later discovered to be female) is dubbed, imprints on “his” adopted family, who quickly realize that “far from having a bird in captivity, we were helplessly and hopelessly ensnared and enamored.” What follows is an interspecies love story between the “highly sociable,” housetrained, telephone-answering, sauerkraut-devouring fluffball and the humans she never ceases to beguile.


Aloft: A Meditation on Pigeons & Pigeon-Flying

By Stephen Bodio,

Book cover of Aloft: A Meditation on Pigeons & Pigeon-Flying

Why this book?

Pigeons are the Rodney Dangerfield of birds. But these docile “rats with wings,” as they’re often called, have hidden depths, including a long and varied history with the human race, which domesticated them 10,000 years ago — around the same time as dogs. As a child, Bodio took up what would become a lifelong passion: training and racing homing pigeons, and this 1990 memoir-slash-natural history reveals why in practical and poetic detail. It’s a great companion to Andrew Blechman’s sweeping 2004 survey Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird. Together the two books say as much about the insular community of pigeon fanciers as they do about the pigeons themselves.


Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

By Celia C. Pérez,

Book cover of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

Why this book?

Strange Birds had me at “rebel scout troop.” Four girls from different backgrounds form a secret scout troop in a treehouse and rally around a unique cause. Their town’s prominent girls’ group, The Floras, crowns the winner of the Miss Floras pageant with a vintage feathered hat. Bird-loving Cat Garcia, a Floras member herself, is outraged that millions of wild birds were sacrificed for such lavish hats, before the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 made killing birds for feathers illegal. The girls come up with creative environmental activism tactics to end the Floras’ misguided tradition, with a bit of mayhem along the way. Inspiring, thoughtful, hopeful. Bonus: backmatter with birdwatching tips, DIY badges, and an extensive bibliography about bird conservation gives the novel a “field guide” vibe.

Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape

By Patrick Laurie,

Book cover of Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape

Why this book?

We are blessed right now with an abundance of farmers who have good stories to tell. Three hill farmers stand out: John Lewis-Stempel, James Rebanks, and Patrick Laurie, whose Native is so lyrical that it reads at times like a prose poem by Seamus Heaney. Laurie’s book is an account, season by season, of his relationship with a roughish bit of land in southwest Scotland. It is part love affair with his small farm, and the curlews and native Galloway cattle in which he has an obsessional interest, and part critique of modern farming and the industrial timber production that threatens much of the open moorland. Native is worth reading just for the quality of the prose, even if you’re not remotely interested in countryside matters.

How Rocket Learned to Read

By Tad Hills,

Book cover of How Rocket Learned to Read

Why this book?

How Rocket Learned to Read is a charming easy-to-read picture book based on the joys of teaching and learning. In it, a little yellow bird teaches Rocket, the spotted dog, to read. Rocket begins by learning the alphabet. After that, he picks up little words like “Grrrrrr!” and “Whoosh!.” Little bird helps Rocket move on to words like “fall” and “red,” signaling a change in seasons. When winter comes, the little yellow bird must fly south. Although Rocket misses little bird, he keeps up with his schoolwork by practicing writing his “ABCs” in the snow. When the little bird returns in the spring, Rocket is now splashing in a word he can now spell: “mud.” Best of all he can spell the word “wag,” which is what he does with his tail when the little bird happily returns for the next season of school.


A Mother for Choco

By Keiko Kasza,

Book cover of A Mother for Choco

Why this book?

A Mother for Choco is a classic in the world of adoption books. Told through the lens of a bird looking for his mama, children learn that not all family members look alike! So many foster and adoptive children (and even the children of multi-ethnic birth families!) struggle to identify their place in a family that looks different from them. This story helps to shape the idea that family members can have different hair color, skin color, height, and other varying features from the parents or siblings of the home—and still be family. This is so powerful and important for kids developing their sense of identity and belonging, regardless of their origin.


The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg

By Bill Peet,

Book cover of The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg

Why this book?

This was my favourite book as a kid, and I still love it now. Bill Peet is an incredible author and artist, who also did amazing work for Walt Disney. Many of his books are about finding the gift in your uniqueness, where the thing that makes the main character an outcast, the butt of jokes, ends up being the thing that makes them special in the end. 

The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg does this wonderfully as Zeke, a griffin hatched by a pigeon, finds his heart, courage, and uniqueness to save the very birds who had wanted to exile him.


Can Cat and Bird Be Friends?

By Coll Muir,

Book cover of Can Cat and Bird Be Friends?

Why this book?

This is an adorable book about a predator-prey pair. Tradition says felines devour birds, so when Cat says he must eat Bird, the feathered fowl tempts Cat’s taste in other ways … by showing him “the highest tree for a cat to get stuck in,” for example. When Cat points out desirable activities for Bird, the two decide to become friends, until they realize they share nothing in common.

I love the humorous banter between the two and the clever use of different text colors to distinguish between the two speakers. I think it’s brilliantly symbolic that when the characters concentrate on differences, the illustrations are in black and white, but once they accidentally discover a shared interest, the pages are splashed with joyful colors.


The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring

By Lucille Clifton, Brinton Turkle (illustrator),

Book cover of The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring

Why this book?

King Shabazz doesn’t believe in this spring that everybody is talking about, but he and his friend Tony Polita and set out through the city in search of it, finding spring in green growing sprouts with pointy yellow flowers in a vacant lot and a nest of eggs birds have made in an abandoned car. 


Old Pearl

By Wendy Wahman,

Book cover of Old Pearl

Why this book?

Young Theo rescues a bird from a lunging dog, but when he brings her home, his grandmother insists that wild birds should be free. But Old Pearl can no longer fly, and big-hearted Theo makes a compelling argument: “…if we can do something about it...shouldn’t we, Grandma?” Grandma agrees. Bird and boy share a sweet friendship until Old Pearl inevitably dies. Theo’s grieving makes me teary with every reading and his healing lifts my heart. A sensitive story of grief and healing, it’s also a celebration of city nature and the human-animal bond. In an afterword, Wahman provides sound advice and resources on what to do if you find injured wildlife in your city.  


All Birds Have Anxiety

By Kathy Hoopmann,

Book cover of All Birds Have Anxiety

Why this book?

I will not mince words: this book is silly. It follows a very simple formula of describing the symptoms of anxiety, general worry, and stress alongside photographs of birds. The funny expressions candidly captured on the bird’s faces somehow seem to always illustrate the specific situations and emotions being described in the text more perfectly than I even could as a professional illustrator. It’s really good fun and would be an especially great resource for a parent/carer/teacher to read along with an anxious child - jumping off and discussing how they relate to what the birds look like they’re feeling as they go.


The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

By Kirk Wallace Johnson,

Book cover of The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Why this book?

This book investigates the case of a British college student who, in 2009, broke into a suburban London museum and stole over 100 rare bird skins. The tale of how he pulled it off, the intrigue that ensued, the strange underground world of exotic fly fishing ties, and the implications for research and the loss to science of the violation of this collection, are absolutely riveting. How contemporary scientists are still learning new things from century-old bird specimens, the inner workings of museums, and the profound scope of bird extinction in the 20th century are just some of the things this book touches on. Beautifully written, I didn’t want it to end.


The Leaf Thief

By Alice Hemming, Nicola Slater (illustrator),

Book cover of The Leaf Thief

Why this book?

This hilarious tale of a squirrel struggling to cope with its tree losing its leaves in autumn shares a theme with Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, but makes it very much its own thanks to its delightfully dramatic main character. Squirrel is a hoot from start to finish, outraged one minute, trying to relax with yoga and a hot bath the next. The book has colourful, expressive illustrations, a wonderful final page twist, and some bonus facts at the back about autumn, trees, and squirrels.

By Rowan and Yew

By Melissa Harrison,

Book cover of By Rowan and Yew

Why this book?

This book is a new find for me and I loved it.

It’s about a group of ‘Hidden People’ who are trying to find their way back home. Hidden People are tiny folk who most humans can’t see but who can be seen by some children – children aware of the world of nature around them. Hidden People are guardians of the Wild World, the world of nature and animals and birds and the like.

This delightful and informative book has a strong message about protecting the world around us. I was enchanted by the story of the, sometimes scary, adventures that these tiny people experienced on their journey back home and I’m sure you will be too.


Beyond the Laughing Sky

By Michelle Cuevas, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Book cover of Beyond the Laughing Sky

Why this book?

Thank goodness those in Nashville’s world are nurturing and full of common sense. He’s like no other child but his story shows that difference doesn’t need fixing. His adoptive family doesn’t always expect him to adapt to the way they do things, sometimes adapting their own behaviour. I love how Nashville and his sister bake cake every night because there are 364 non-birthdays to celebrate each day.

Nashville’s tale embraces the idea that impossible is a ridiculous little word and shows that no matter how different we are, we share the same hopes, fears and a need to stay true to ourselves. One of my favourite lines in the book relates to a life-changing injury Nashville accidentally causes to another being. The vet says this little bird will just have to make do. It’s true for any of us in many situations.


The Birds and Other Stories

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of The Birds and Other Stories

Why this book?

The Birds is a tale of invasion. The rural West country setting appears safe, predictable. But Nat, an ordinary farm labourer, notices at once when the birds begin to mingle "in strange partnership." The description of the mass of gulls, riding the waves, waiting for the tide to turn, is unforgettable, superb. The birds are united against a single enemy, and they have a plan. They don’t care how many of their numbers die as long as they annihilate humanity. 

I love apocalypse tales and this is one of the greatest stories about what happens when nature turns against us.


Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time - A True Story about Birdwatching

By Sean Dooley,

Book cover of Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time - A True Story about Birdwatching

Why this book?

I love stories about obsessive birding characters, and this is, without doubt, the funniest!! The author details his quest to try and break the annual Australian birding record by seeing more than 700 birds in a year. He drops everything to try and complete this task and runs into incredibly humorous and sometimes unbelievable situations. I love the way the author uses his self-deprecating humor to drive this fascinating story. An excellent read for anyone with a keen interest in birds and a keen sense of humor!


Hummingbird

By Nicola Davies, Jane Ray (illustrator),

Book cover of Hummingbird

Why this book?

Sometimes stories from the imagination are the best way to convey concepts in all their layered complexity. Concepts like migration. The beautifully illustrated Hummingbird tells the story of a little girl who moves from her grandmother’s village in Central America to New York City, paralleling a ruby-throated hummingbird’s migratory journey. Information about the hummingbird and its migration are woven seamlessly into the book, shining through the lovely story. 


The Birds of Shakespeare: Critically examined, explained, and illustrated

By James Edmund Harting,

Book cover of The Birds of Shakespeare: Critically examined, explained, and illustrated

Why this book?

Also known as The Ornithology of Shakespeare, James Edmund Harting published this book in 1871 as a detailed analysis of all the references to birds in Shakespeare’s plays. He shows that to Shakespeare and his audience, birds and field sports were second nature. His book starts with Shakespeare’s general knowledge of natural history and then tackles different types of birds, such as those with song and the owl and its associations. Harting was an extremely knowledgeable ornithologist and hawker, and his book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand Shakespeare.


Ways to Welcome

By Linda Ashman, Joey Chou (illustrator),

Book cover of Ways to Welcome

Why this book?

So often we address the “what” and “why” but not the “how.” Ways to Welcome is all about the “how.” Just how can we make others feel included? I love the specific examples in this book—from waves, smiles, and “hellos” to cups of tea, bouquets of flowers, and retrieving a lost hat. We even see ways we can welcome dogs, bees, and birds. The rhyming text is buoyant, and the illustrations are bold and bright. This book positively exudes warmth!


Finding a Dove for Gramps

By Lisa J. Amstutz, Maria Luisa Di Gravio (illustrator),

Book cover of Finding a Dove for Gramps

Why this book?

This is a fictional story about a boy searching for his Gramps’s favorite bird during the Christmas Bird Count. 

I’m sure there are many young readers who don’t think they know enough to participate in something so grand as the Christmas Bird Count. But I’m confident that this book will reassure them that they know more than they think as they confidently identify the birds deftly illustrated by Maria Luisa Di Gravio. Lisa Amstutz, the author, has also included in the backmatter a birding checklist to get little bird nerds started. I think this story will inspire a lot of families to start their own birding tradition.


Magicborn

By Peter Bunzl,

Book cover of Magicborn

Why this book?

If you’ve ever believed in fairies then this is the book for you. I adored the setting of the Greenwoods where twins Storm Girl and Wild Boy are born and live until they are forced to leave. This is where the adventure begins – and what an adventure. It’s a book full of feisty characters, which is something I admire. They simply won’t give up and keep going until they uncover the secrets about their past. The other adorable character in this book is Coriel who is a robin who can talk to Storm Girl. I’ve always wished I could understand bird language! This is the first of a new series and I simply can’t wait for the next one.


I Am NOT a Dinosaur!

By Will Lach, Jonny Lambert (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am NOT a Dinosaur!

Why this book?

From the lizard-looking Dimetrodon to the wooly mammoth to the 1,000-pound turtle-like Glyptodont, as well as the modern-day Latimeria fish species that was believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago (Surprise! It turned up in a fisherman’s net!), puts this book in the “must-read” category. A bouncy rhyming text that highlights large creatures that roamed the Earth both before and alongside dinosaurs, makes this book a win, especially since it lands at a modern-day avian dinosaur that can be seen in tweety parakeet.


The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

By Henry Beston,

Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Why this book?

The Outermost House was one of Rachel Carson’s favorite books about the sea, and it is little wonder why. Beston’s best-known work was inspired by a year he spent on a duney Cape Cod headland with the seasonal elements and the indigenous creatures of land, sea, and air. He had originally intended to stay a fortnight before the “beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held” him. Having had his spirit shaken on the frontlines during the First World War, he was the better for the longer stay. So are we. The Outermost House is a quietly alluring, elegiac meditation on a place where nature seemed to pursue its rituals as if impingements of modern civilization were nonexistent. Although written nearly a century ago, Beston’s work possesses a timelessness in its central assertion that humanity impoverishes itself when it fails to appreciate the “divine mystery” of nature. 


Mozart's Starling

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt,

Book cover of Mozart's Starling

Why this book?

I picked up this book when I was writing my book about rape and was immediately reminded about the joys of music and art and birds and all the unlikely connections life has to offer. Mozart wrote music inspired by a starling, and the author, inspired by a baby starling in her own life, followed his story to Europe and back. Most unexpected, most illuminating. Gravity-defying because the Muse follows no earthly laws.


Why Peacocks?: An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World's Most Magnificent Bird

By Sean Flynn,

Book cover of Why Peacocks?: An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World's Most Magnificent Bird

Why this book?

GQ writer Flynn and his wife and two kids are minding their own business on their surburban Durham “faux farm” when a friend calls to ask if they want to add a peacock to the two chickens that wander their yard. They end up with three of the kaleidoscopic birds, and Flynn’s chronicle of the family’s first year with Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle takes readers on an implausibly relatable journey from the bird’s place in history, culture, and myth through its evolutionary biology and breeding habits to its endangered status in the wild, offering sardonically hilarious and harrowingly poignant life lessons along the way.


Birds Art Life Death: The Art of Noticing the Small and Significant

By Kyo Maclear,

Book cover of Birds Art Life Death: The Art of Noticing the Small and Significant

Why this book?

A perfectly formed, intimate epiphany of a book about birdwatching, by a non-birdwatcher. Unmoored by her father’s illness, Maclear tries to find a way of making life make sense. She experiments with calligraphy; she wrestles with writer’s block. One day she meets a birdwatching musician, who explains how the activity helps dissipate his worries and daily pressures. Intrigued, she asks if she can tag along. Reluctant at first, and almost despite herself, the author begins to find peace and unexpected beauty in the urban landscape. She discovers that simply being still triggers introspection. This is also a book about the tension between freedom and confinement – something that resonates particularly for me, as a writer with children.


On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging

By Nicola Chester,

Book cover of On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging

Why this book?

An unusually honest, rural memoir by the RSPB’s longest-serving female columnist. Chester’s writing has a lovely elasticity, dancing between wonder, introspection, and anger as she moves from the particular to the universal. I learned a lot about how Britain’s countryside is managed. I also enjoyed her more eccentric impulses, such as lying down in the snow on the edge of a field one night, just to see what might happen. She belongs to the disappearing English rural working class, and is intent on handing this baton to her three children. Chester also explores the familiar tension between wanting to write and being needed at home. The heady ecstasy of time carved out alone, in nature. The scrabble to earn a precarious living, and the insecurities of occupying a tied cottage. The idea of ‘home’ lies at the heart of this fierce, beautifully written, immersive book about one’s place within the landscape.


Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird

By Emelyn Rude,

Book cover of Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird

Why this book?

Tastes Like Chicken is a seriously excellent book on the history and culture of chickens in America since its earliest days! The book is fun and well-crafted for a wide audience because it covers so much about the chicken industry, as well as the history, uses, and symbolism of chicken, as well as a wider range of foods in the United States.


Noodle & Lou

By Liz Garton Scanlon, Arthur Howard (illustrator),

Book cover of Noodle & Lou

Why this book?

I adore friendships stories that showcase buddies who have each other’s back and who are the cheerleaders in our life. Noodles and Lou, told in rollicking rhyme, is that kind of story. In the opening pages of the book, we understand Noodle is having an off-putting start to his day.

Some days don’t go well, right from the start

Noodle woke up with a rain-cloudy heart.

But before the story ends, Noodle is cheered up by his best buddy and sees his many wonderful strengths through his friend’s eyes.


The Nest That Wren Built

By Randi Sonenshine, Anne Hunter (illustrator),

Book cover of The Nest That Wren Built

Why this book?

Using a familiar cumulative format, Sonenshine makes it shine and makes it her own using pleasing poetic language to tell a story about a nesting pair of Carolina wrens. This rhythmic read-aloud is jaunty and joyful and scientifically accurate; we watch the wren pair build a nest, lay their eggs on a velvet bed of moss, and observe as chicks grow from hatchlings to nestlings to fledglings, flying off on their own. Hunter’s earth-toned art complements the coziness of the text. The book wraps up with wren facts and a glossary of bird-related terms.


Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words

By Jeremy Mynott,

Book cover of Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words

Why this book?

The history of ornithology is an extraordinarily rich topic and one full of interest and rewards. This book is a celebration of the beginnings of our ornithological knowledge. A classics scholar and ornithologist, Jeremy Mynott has translated all the numerous texts here himself, and in so doing providing a consistent, knowledgeable, highly readable text. One of the things that comes across so vividly in this book is how much of our knowledge about birds — including, for example, the fact that young birds, like the nightingale, acquire their song by listening to their father — were so well established so long ago! 


The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

By Tim Birkhead,

Book cover of The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

Why this book?

This book is a fascinating look at ornithology through the ages, from mythology and legend to the evolution of our scientific understanding of birds today. It includes beautiful illustrations from medieval monks to early naturalists through the 20th century. Even the most casual birdwatcher will learn something fascinating from this book; I read it slowly, digesting a section at a time, and it’s one I’m sure I’ll return to again and again.


Fly High, Fly Low

By Don Freeman,

Book cover of Fly High, Fly Low

Why this book?

This book was a favorite from my own childhood and, more recently, I loved reading it to my own kids. The story has just the right amount of drama as the father bird searches high and low for his missing family. I also think it’s fun to see a story about birds with a predominantly urban setting (it is about pigeons living in San Francisco), though I may be biased because it’s set near where I live today. 


Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Why this book?

Okay, maybe this book isn’t as hopeful as some of the others on here, but it has two major things going for it. First, it is fun. Pure, laugh-out-loud fun, that children love and enjoy immensely. You’ll enjoy reading it to children as well. Second, it shows an admirable trait of persistence as Pigeon uses tact and wit to try to achieve what he wants – to drive the bus! The story goes on to show that even though persistence alone does not always get the outcome we want, there is still value in persevering. You can even discuss the book with your older kids, talking about ways to change some No’s to a Yes, such as taking driving lessons, or getting a license first. This positive trait of perseverance also shows how hopeful Pigeon remains the entire book that maybe now he’ll get to drive the bus.


Dodo

By Felipe Nunes,

Book cover of Dodo

Why this book?

This is a story about someone going through something difficult and not having the words to verbalize why it is having a drastic impact. The premise is simple: Laila’s parents are going through a separation and she has to stay home. One day, she sees a giant bird across the street and allows him to enter her house. Laila tries to keep him a secret, but this bird has other plans. To me, this book is about visualizing a difficult or unnamed emotion. It shows how messy such a process can be. Also, the illustrations are delightful.  


The Silent Sky: The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

By Allan W. Eckert,

Book cover of The Silent Sky: The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Why this book?

Once I became obsessed with Allan Eckert’s delicious writing, I read everything he wrote, which is how I happened upon The Silent Sky – The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Oh my God!!! How did this happen? Why? Passenger pigeons were such an astonishing phenomenon—until we exterminated them. After reading this book, I went to the Cincinnati Zoo and wept before the stuffed corpse of Martha, the last of her kind, and I commissioned a lawn statue of her to serve as a memorial to the billions of her brethren who once filled the skies over my house. What have we done, what have we done...?


Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Book cover of Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Why this book?

This book became a “wow” moment for me as it celebrates the life of a honey bee. “Can I fly now?” the bee wants to know. With poetic language and exquisite close-up illustrations, the reader has to wait, just like the bee, who has only 35 days to get through many chores before she can fly off for the final flower and honey mission. Who could ever swat a busy bee after reading this amazing life story? Extra information is provided about the special skills and plight of our important pollinators.  


Smithsonian Q & A: Penguins: The Ultimate Question & Answer Book

By Lloyd Spencer Davis,

Book cover of Smithsonian Q & A: Penguins: The Ultimate Question & Answer Book

Why this book?

This is an incredibly informative and fun book! The author is a field researcher who has written many books about penguins - all imbued with his cheeky sense of humor. The Q&A format makes this book easily digestible for both adults and kids. Each themed chapter has many questions that are answered with a few paragraphs and photos. The answers are both detailed and succinct. The Q&A format even works well for those with dementia. When my father had Alzheimer’s, and could no longer comprehend what he was reading, he actually read this book for a few solid hours, often turning to me to say, “Did you know that penguins could…[x, y, z]?” I already loved this book - but this gave it a permanent special place in my heart.


Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends

By Wong Herbert Yee,

Book cover of Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends

Why this book?

Mole and Mouse take their art supplies into the woods to make a book about birds, but they can never get close enough to their subjects to draw them. Since birds are not afraid of other birds, they decide to create feathered costumes for themselves and then build a nest to lure some winged company into drawing range. These stories about a warm, eccentric friendship between a mole and mouse, with charming pictures reminiscent of E.H. Shepard’s art in the Winne the Pooh books, are full of small surprises, just right for new readers.  


Stuart Little

By E.B. White, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of Stuart Little

Why this book?

When I wake up in the middle of the night I want to re-read something that will make me feel safe, and the character of Stuart is so sweet and funny, and familiar, that I come back over and over and always find something new to love in this book. The pictures are also just right, with Stuart looking jaunty as he sails his boat in Central Park, or rides his mother's wedding ring up out of the bathroom sink drain. I'm a New Yorker, so I have a soft spot for stories that take place in New York, but it's also just a story about a wonderful little guy named Stuart. It's also a love story, and a coming-of-age story. It's not easy being a mouse born into a household of humans, no matter how much they love you. This is a book that is filled with hope, and perfect for everyone who has never quite fit in and longs for adventuresometimes I will only read the last chapter— one of the most beautiful chapters in American literature for any age.


Where the Forest Meets the Stars

By Glendy Vanderah,

Book cover of Where the Forest Meets the Stars

Why this book?

I love offbeat stories that surprise me! We meet Jo as she arrives at a cabin out in the woods for a scientific bird study, and of course, she arrives with a lot of emotional baggage. She soon meets a little girl who comes out of the woods like she’s homeless. Jo gets a neighbor involved, although not through her choosing. The neighbor doesn’t seem to like people or want to be bothered, but soon they both find themselves responsible for this lost little girl. This story has mystery and intrigue, and a slowly developing romance and family dynamic that I love. The setup is new and fresh, and the writing is amazing. It’s hard to tell you how much I loved this story! 


The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Everyone Can Grow

By Tovah Martin,

Book cover of The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Everyone Can Grow

Why this book?

Tovah Martin is my houseplant hero! Tovah is a rare bird! Her love of houseplants rings through her writing. She has made gardening and indoor plants her life’s pursuit and it shows. This book is one of several Tovah has written. Her work often appears in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. I have followed her career from day one. Her vision of the plant is joyful and information only someone with this great love of the houseplant can share with you. If you buy one book on how to care for and incorporate the beauty of green plants in your home you must read Tovah's book!


Bird & Squirrel on the Run!

By James Burks,

Book cover of Bird & Squirrel on the Run!

Why this book?

Jame’s Bird & Squirrel series taught me a lot about comedic timing in comics. When I sold my own book and realized I actually had to write a book I had a slight panic attack. My agent recommended I look at Bird & Squirrel as a guide to writing and illustrating a graphic novel. James also works in animation and those skills are on display with how his characters move and interact in his books. Reading Bird and Squirrel is like watching a beloved Saturday morning cartoon. 


The Polar Bear

By Jenni Desmond,

Book cover of The Polar Bear

Why this book?

A little girl takes a book from a shelf and plunges into an imaginary encounter with a beautiful polar bear. Poetically written and gorgeously illustrated, the book teaches us all about polar bears and their lives: Where they live, what they eat, how big their paws are, and about the birth of bear cubs. As the book jacket copy rightly says, the book engages the reader’s interest in amazing facts, while filling them with a deep sense of wonder.


The Day War Came

By Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day War Came

Why this book?

Sadly, this powerful story feels more relevant than ever. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, it confronts the reality of war head-on, putting the reader in the shoes of a little girl whose everyday routine is shattered. Because of the subject matter, this may be unsuitable for very young or sensitive kids – but it proves that picture books can be a potent way of speaking to older kids, too.

The unsophisticated language and naive illustrations provide children easy access to important discussions surrounding conflict and misplaced children. Poignant, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting, this story reminds us of the reality of war and that our children provide hope for a peaceful future.


The Peregrine

By J.A. Baker,

Book cover of The Peregrine

Why this book?

Werner Herzog demands that his film students read this book, and it's easy to see why: it's an act of pure seeing that makes a humdrum English landscape blaze with vivid life. Baker, who seems diffident about humanity at best ("we reek of death," he grumbles) embarks on a quest to know the peregrine falcons who live in—and pass through—the place where he lives, and in describing their lives he finds a luminous and heroic world hidden in the muddy fields and clouded skies of Essex. Ours "is a dying world, like Mars," he writes, "but glowing still."  


Crane & Crane

By Linda Joy Singleton, Richard Smythe (illustrator),

Book cover of Crane & Crane

Why this book?

This brief, clever picture book really packs a punch! Readers follow two families building a house for their expected little ones. Each action is presented with one simple word. The human uses a construction crane to GRAB lumber, while on the opposite page, a Sandhill Crane uses its beak to GRAB a stick for the nest. They GLIDE, STACK, PICK, SWAY, and HONK their way through the warm watercolor illustrations until they settle on one word to summarize their accomplishment…HOME.

The Pigeon Has to Go to School!

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of The Pigeon Has to Go to School!

Why this book?

Any child reluctant for heading back to school will love the playful energy of Mo Willem’s pigeon. Readers journey with the pigeon into relatable thoughts like, “What if I don’t like school?” and “What will the other birds think of me?” The theatrics make it a fun read-aloud, and the pigeon’s realizations throughout will help settle kids’ nerves. With delightful details from cover-to-cover, this is an easy choice for 4- to 7-year-olds.


The Swamp

By Yoshiharu Tsuge, Ryan Holmberg (translator),

Book cover of The Swamp

Why this book?

Tsuge is another of the early gekiga greats, who only recently allowed English translation of his classic work from the 1960s and 70s. Tsuge pushed the boundaries of what manga stories were about, into more abstract and surreal areas and visual presentation. This book is, like Tatsumi’s books, a glimpse of a little-known Japan beneath the common stereotypes. Its stories are told in an understated and sophisticated fashion. Literary manga indeed. Wonderful stuff, personally I love it.


Sir Scrap Metal

By Joan Dee Wilson,

Book cover of Sir Scrap Metal

Why this book?

This charming chapter book turns a typical story about three children and a new pet on its head by exploring a creative idea—the adoption of a stern, dignified small robot instead. And Sir Scrap Metal is no ordinary robot, but a secret agent working for an animal protection agency. While the kids solve a mystery with his help, the transfer of furry friend to cold titanium friend was very skillful. I never thought I could care about a robot as much as a dog or cat, but this book reminded me what pet stories are about. To those who love them, pets are both superheroes who complete special missions and also buddies who want to belong—whether they bark or meow or chirp or emit monotone robotic statements.


Journey

By Aaron Becker,

Book cover of Journey

Why this book?

This wordless story begins with a little girl desperate for a playmate from her distracted family. Finally, she resigns herself to her room where she finds a red crayon. With the crayon she draws a door to an enchanted world. There’s a forest, a castle, and an airship all within this richly illustrated adventure.


Where the World Ends

By Geraldine McCaughrean,

Book cover of Where the World Ends

Why this book?

This wonderful piece of writing isn’t obviously a travel narrative or a book about natural history as it is marketed as a children’s fiction but it is based on a real event and the sense of place the author achieves is astonishing. A group of men and boys from St Kilda are put ashore on a rocky stac in the North Atlantic. Their mission is to harvest birds and collect fulmar eggs and oil which will sustain their little rural community through the harsh Scottish winter. No one comes to bring them home though and the unfortunates spend months huddled against the storms.

The narrative vividly captures the risks such adventurers took dangling from homemade ropes over cliffs above unforgiving seas with shearwaters and other seabirds screaming at them. It is a masterful portrait of the harsh life on the Scottish islands.


Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey

By Joe Hutto,

Book cover of Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey

Why this book?

Like every reader who picks up this book, I was astounded to read about how Joe lived on intimate terms with a brood of young turkeys and learned to behave as they did. Best moment in the book: When he sees a rattlesnake and makes the call he learned in "Turkey" to say: "dangerous animals, stay alert."  They looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Reason: They recognized it was a baby snake, of no danger to them!

I am not even sure the author understood the enormity of what he did. He actually lived with wild turkeys (very different from the domesticated bird you, unfortunately, find on your plate for dinner) and could see things about them that nobody else had even suspected. I like to think it changed his life (e.g., he would never eat turkeys, or any bird, ever again) but I am not sure. I tried to reach out to him to find out, but I was not successful. Maybe you will have better luck.  


Ginger Pye

By Eleanor Estes,

Book cover of Ginger Pye

Why this book?

This is one of my all-time favorites. But it’s an old one. It was first published in 1951. It is adorable and funny, and I don’t think it’s ever been out of print. It’s about a boy who searches for his dognapped dog, Ginger Pye. No worries. Love will triumph!


Real Pigeons Fight Crime (Book 1)

By Andrew McDonald, Ben Wood (illustrator),

Book cover of Real Pigeons Fight Crime (Book 1)

Why this book?

The last thing you expect pigeons to do is to fight crime but that’s exactly what this secret squad of crime-fighting feathered friends are up to. The book is easy to read and has a fair amount of words but that won’t matter because the reader will be fully engaged in all the hilarity and excitement. These pigeons won’t stop until all mysteries are solved and the neighborhood is crime-free! Fun & great way of easing kids into reading chapter books.


The Penguins: Spheniscidae (Bird Families of the World, No. 2)

By Tony D. Williams, J.N. Davies (illustrator), John Busby (illustrator)

Book cover of The Penguins: Spheniscidae (Bird Families of the World, No. 2)

Why this book?

For serious penguin geeks, this book has long been the penguin bible. If you’re looking for scientifically accurate information about the biology and behavior of each penguin species, this is a fantastic reference book. Written by a leading ornithologist who has done field research on penguins, The Penguins gives a very comprehensive overview of each species, with detailed information about everything from breeding biology, to foraging ecology, to physical measurements, and much more. There are many illustrations and graphs as well. (The Penguins is manna for natural-science geeks and hard-core bird nerds.)


Rebirding: Winner of the Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation: Restoring Britain's Wildlife

By Benedict MacDonald,

Book cover of Rebirding: Winner of the Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation: Restoring Britain's Wildlife

Why this book?

This is a wonderfully imaginative book. It examines how Britain, a nation of nature lovers with over 1 million members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, has become one of the most damaged and denuded countries on the planet. Although depressing in parts when looking at the depths of our global biodiversity crisis, this book explains how we can turn this around, heal our land, bring back wildlife, and ensure vibrant rural communities. 


The Ghost in the Machine: Poems of Love, Loss, Life and Death

By Barbara Lennox,

Book cover of The Ghost in the Machine: Poems of Love, Loss, Life and Death

Why this book?

What makes Scottish poet Barbara Lennox so special is her ability to draw on her scientific background, striking an exquisite balance between a mechanistic view of nature and a more mysterious, creative approach. I love poems about birds and flight and her poems about an owl ("ears inhale every sound"), hawk ("she’s light/ ready for the off/ half-poised for flight"), and the extinct Archaeopteryx, "smeared to a layer of limestone" are some of the finest written. On top of that, Lennox writes astonishing poems about the Scottish Highlands, where I’ve spent some of my happiest times.


The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist

By Margarita Engle, Aliona Bereghici (illustrator),

Book cover of The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist

Why this book?

I was thrilled to find Sky Painter, because it’s about Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the famous painter mentioned in my book, who once gave Roger Tory Peterson a paintbrush. I’d always wanted to know more about the man who inspired Roger, and author Margarita Engle does a wonderful job capturing the painter’s curiosity, compassion, and dedication to birds.  

Like Roger, Louis was always bringing home wildlife. He kept baby birds on the porch, and sketched an owl in the kitchen. And like Roger, Louis painted in the bathroom. Roger did it because of the light. Louis did it because his model, a loon, was swimming in the bathtub!

If you love birds, you’ll certainly find a kindred spirit in Sky Painter


Waiting for a Warbler

By Sneed B. Collard III, Thomas Brooks (illustrator),

Book cover of Waiting for a Warbler

Why this book?

Owen’s garden is like my own! Both our yards are graced with big, old, native trees and we’ve planted additional species of native trees, shrubs, and flowers in the hopes of attracting our avian friends. Like Owen, my hope is that these plants will provide for the birds we love to watch, as well as draw the insects that make healthy meals for them. While I’ve never seen a cerulean blue warbler, I love watching other various birds that visit our garden, especially the great horned owls!

The Bird and the Sword

By Amy Harmon,

Book cover of The Bird and the Sword

Why this book?

True confession, I love just about everything Amy Harmon writes, but this book blew my socks off. Not only did it stand out as unique among the typical fantasies, but it was exquisitely well written. Ms. Harmon has a way with the English language that made me fall in love with reading in a way I hadn’t in a long, long time. While it is true that the heroine was a pretty morally upright character, Ms. Harmon never comes across as preachy, and the character’s choices were well thought out.


No Virgin Island: A Sabrina Salter Mystery

By C. Michele Dorsey,

Book cover of No Virgin Island: A Sabrina Salter Mystery

Why this book?

The author sets an intricate murder mystery against the details of life on St. John in the Virgin Islands. Sabrina Salter, the ex-pat protagonist, is a wounded bird seeking solace from her troubled past by trying to start over in the tropics, but trouble—and romance—follow her.

Details about life on the island make it clear that the author spent a lot of time on St. John and loves the island deeply. I didn’t guess who the murderer was until the very end, although the clues were there. I really like Sabrina and her dog, and the hunky Neil is a fitting romantic partner. 

This book had everything I like—friends, lovers, local color, and a juicy murder. I was captivated from page one.