A World of Birds is a beautifully crafted nonfiction text, which introduces the reader to 75 birds across all seven continents. I immediately warmed to the author when I read the acknowledgement ‘For my best friend Asa who knows nothing about birds’. This book was for me.
The first six pages tell you everything you need to know about the generic features of birds and provided me with a clear structure on which to hang the fascinating details that followed. Each continent is introduced with a map which you can use to track migratory flights. Although this is a book many would just dip into, I read it from cover to cover due to the beautiful illustrations and quirky facts. Did you know the ostrich is the only bird to have two toes? I was also very excited to learn about precocial chicks, which can stand within minutes of hatching, fully feathered and ready to forage. The adjective ‘precocious’ now makes so much more sense.
Every detail of the illustrations provides the right balance of informative detail without overloading the reader. The pastel shades of background squared paper are easy on the eye and divide up the continents. The use of outline sketches alongside the fully-coloured and annotated diagrams allowed the reader to move from the key features to fascinating details easily. Each page then hones in on the particular characteristics of one bird: their calls, the history of their names, their size, mating habits, sources of food and the state of their natural environment.
What I liked about this book is that it doesn’t work to a set formula. For each bird, Vicky Woodgate has selected a few vital pieces of information, which the reader is likely to remember. I appreciated this ‘less is more’ approach and think younger readers will too.
Subtly underpinning this excellent example of non-fiction is the message about the fragile state of the environment of many of these birds. I am tempted to say this would make an excellent Guided Reading book, but the cost may prohibit this. Pupils could use all their nonfiction reading skills to locate information, and the book would provide a fabulous springboard for further discussions about nature and the environment.
At the very least, every school library needs a copy of A World of Birds.
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