“An informative introduction to the practice of taking a bird census that looks far more exciting that it actually is. ”
Early on a wintry morning, young Ava eagerly wakes her mom. It’s the day of the Christmas Bird Count, and this is the first year Ava gets to take the tally. In this tale, Richmond introduces readers to Ava and her mom’s unique tradition of participating in their area’s annual bird census. Ava is a citizen scientist, and she’s remarkably familiar with birds, able to recognize a wide variety from their sound and appearance. She’s also well versed in the rules of gathering data for the census: “Count every bird you see or hear . . . Make sure at least two people see or hear it. And don’t count any bird twice.” Big Al leads their team, and together they enjoy a day of exploring, taking count of how many of each type of bird they see. When it gets too dark to count birds, Ava and her mom gather with other citizen scientists for a warming cup of cocoa and to swap stories about the day’s sightings. The inclusion of a notebook page on the right margin where the bird tally is kept provides an interesting fun counting aspect to the book and Coleman’s digital illustrations are playful in this novel winter tale, in sharp contrast to the story itself which is almost no fun at all The cover is particularly inviting as Ava peers out behind big binoculars, bundled up in her winter clothing as snow gently falls in the background, although unfortunately the picture suggests a sense of adventure that never actually occurs in the story, leaving readers waiting for a story to satisfy their piqued curiosity, only to feel unsatisfied by the book’s straight-forward narration of a fun but average day of bird counting.
A young girl eagerly identifies and counts the birds she observes around her town during the New England Christmas Bird Count.
Young Ava and her mother prepare to participate as “citizen scientists” in the Christmas Bird Count. She is excited when Big Al, the leader of their team, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools―her eyes and ears―and the birding ID techniques she’s learned, Ava eagerly identifies and counts the birds they observe on their assigned route around the town. At the end of the day, they meet up with the other teams in the area for a Christmas Bird Count party, where they combine their totals and share stories about their observations.
This informative story by author Susan Edwards Richmond, coupled with Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s charming depictions of birds in their winter habitats, is the perfect book to introduce young readers to birdwatching. The text offers simple explanations of the identification methods used by birdwatchers and clear descriptions of bird habitats, and a section in the back provides more information about the birds featured in the book and the Christmas Bird Count.
Ava and her mom volunteer to help with the bird census. When have you volunteered to help your community in a service project?
Ava learns to distinguish among the many different calls birds make. Do you recognize differences among the voices of people? Did you know birds have different voices, too?
Susan Edwards Richmond teaches preschool on a farm and wildlife sanctuary in eastern Massachusetts. She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, and is the author of five collections of nature-based poetry for adults. She is happiest exploring natural habitats with her husband and two daughters, and learns the native birds wherever she travels.
Stephanie Fizer Coleman is an illustrator with a penchant for playful color and rich texture. Having grown up in a rural area surrounded by nature, it’s no surprise that furry and feathered creatures are her favorite subjects to draw. When she’s not drawing, Steph can be found sipping tea and reading books. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and two dogs.
For my daughters, Elana and Sonia, whose lives continue to inspire me
For Grams, where my love of birds began
“In her debut children’s book, Richmond follows a young girl and her mother as they partake in the important avian census that informs both scientists and conservationists.”
“A young citizen scientist helps count birds for the Christmas Bird Count . . . An engaging, informative introduction.”
“An instructive and attractive picture book for aspiring ornithologists and young nature aficionados.”