I’m doing a unit study about birds with my 5-year-old son this week, and we’ve found some wonderful books to read! I suppose it makes sense that there are more picture books written about some subjects than others, but it was much easier to find books I liked about birds than about caves… or World War I… or Russian culture. Here are some of our favorites:
Feathers: Not Just for Flying – by Melissa Stewart
I fell in love with the layout of this book. It looks like a scrapbook — handwritten notes that appear to be taped next to snapshots and feathers, all collected and arranged lovingly and artistically across the pages. Not only did it go into the difference between feather (down vs. flight feathers, etc.), but it also discussed the different uses for feathers (did you know that some birds use their feathers to sweep dirt out of the nests that they dig in the ground?) My son left our reading of this book wanting to start his own feather collection!
About Birds – by Cathryn Sill
A perfect overview book. The text is simple and succinct, but in a very beautiful way. The illustrations are detailed and lovely, and the book exudes a sense of thoughtfulness and care.
Beaks! – by Sneed Collard III
I wasn’t sure that my son would hold up for an entire book just about beaks, but we both found this one fascinating. It introduced a variety of beak types and what they’re used for — how different types of beaks are needed for seed gathering than for fish spearing or carcass tearing. The information was presented in an engaging way, and the bold, fun illustrations brought it all together in a wonderful way.
Sweep up the Sun – by Helen Frost
The photography in this book blew me away. Each wingtip looks translucent, and the sense of motion captured in the photographs is utterly stunning. This photography, coupled with Helen Frost’s rich poetry makes for lovely experience.
Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package – by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
This introduction to eggs and egg-laying animals includes a number of birds — but includes a number of non-bird egg-layers as well. Diagrams show the relative size of the eggs of the platypus, the robin, the king cobra, and the ostrich. And did you know that giant squid lay eggs? Various egg-related topics are covered: the places animals choose for laying eggs, how many eggs they lay, and how they protect their eggs from predators. The focus of the book is the eggs themselves — not incubation and hatching — but it does include an interesting comparison of the incubation of a chicken egg and an alligator egg.
Feathers: Poems about Birds – by Eileen Spinelli
A lovely collection of poems about birds — and not just the backyard ones either. Toucans, penguins, and roadrunners keep company alongside goldfinches, crows, and robins. These are poems by a single author, and very accessible for children. (If you’re looking for a compilation of poems about birds by multiple poets, and geared more for adults, check out Billy Collins’ compilation Bright Wings: an Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds.)
Eggs and Chicks – by Fiona Patchett
The Usborne Beginners series has proven to be at a perfect level for my 5-year-old son, and this selection was no exception. The text-to-picture ratio is just right for his attention span, and the information is engaging. This volume covers topics such as unusual nests, what’s going on inside an egg, and a baby bird’s first flight.
Mama Built a Little Nest – by Jennifer Ward
This book focuses on the amazing variety of nests built by birds. (Just bird nests in this book — if you’re looking for other nest-building animals, check out the next book on this list.) The main text is rhyming, and covers birds ranging from woodpeckers to penguins to flamingos, and the interesting features of their nest-building habits. There are also short paragraphs of non-rhyming text that go into more detail about the nest building process for each bird.
A Nest is Noisy – by Dianna Hutts Aston
I love the illustrations in this book. They’re so detailed, and full of charm. The book introduces a variety of birds (and a few non-bird animals as well) as they build their nests high in trees, under decomposing leaves, in cacti, or even underwater. A poetic over-arching text weaves through the pages, while short informational paragraphs explain more about each nest.