The illustrations are the star of this oversized hardcover that operates as a scrapbook for beginning bird lovers. Author and illustrator Geraldo Valério uses collage to construct the vibrant and beautiful images of North American birds that grace the book’s pages, from the snowy owl to the Atlantic puffin, and from year-round backyard regulars like the cardinal to spring-and-summer travellers like the yellow warbler.
Each species is identified by its common and Latin name, and along with basic factual information – nesting and breeding habits, habitat, and hunting skills – Valério includes some less common details: how many eggs a mallard might lay at once, the clever way an American bittern camouflages itself among the reeds, what a hummingbird might use to build its nest (spiderwebs!).
The endpapers also prove fascinating, with detailed illustrations of each bird’s egg at one end of the book and its feathers at the other, making it possible for children to flip back and forth through the pages, matching the birds with their features. For real keeners, Valério rounds out the text with a limited glossary and small selection of further reading, both to build on what kids might find in the book, and also as a showcase for his own favourite resources.
A slightly more thoughtful organization of species (why separate jays, crows, and ravens when they are all part of the same family?), or at least an arrangement by common geography would be helpful for the young reader/birdwatcher and family, but what really shines through My Book of Birds is the author’s own interest in, and affection for, the winged creatures – surely the most important factor when it comes to capturing the imagination.