In my library stack this week were two picture books about birds of prey. Both books were written by the women who helped rescue them, and use the story of their experiences in helping create a life in captivity for their charges to show something about the basic biology of the animals.

Cover of book shows mother hawk with two baby chickensHawk Mother tells the true story of an injured red-tailed hawk who tried to hatch her infertile eggs every year. Finally the author tries swapping out her infertile eggs for fertile chicken eggs. The hawk successfully hatches and raises two chicks. The book concludes, “If she had found them in the wild she would have eaten them. That’s what hawks do. But since she hatched them herself she gave the all the care and protection they needed until they were fully grown.”

Cover shows a bald eage with a 3-D printed prosthetic beakThe Bird and the Beak tells the true story of a bald eagle who lost the top half of his beak to gunfire. When the author, a wildlife conservationist, has a chance encounter with a scientist, they come up with a plan to 3-D print a prosthetic beak for the bird. They enlist the help of their own dentists and dental hygienists (dentists as heroes!) and create a new beak for the bird. I loved how the text of this book stresses from the beginning, even before the injury occurs, all the ways an eagle in the wild uses its beak. By the time the bird is injured, it’s obvious how very serious his situation is without a beak. I also loved the back matter. There are a full nine spreads devoted to information about the biology of eagles, the cultural significance of eagles, conservation issues related to eagles, and an essay about prosthetics. This is a book where the main text will draw in any reader and the back matter will let passionate kids pursue their interest.

Both of these books are lavishly illustrated with color photographs, and both are, without comment, about female scientists. And both have covers that impel you to open the book.

Happy reading!

Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk who Hatched Chickens by Kara Hagedorn. (Web of Life Children’s Books: 2017).

Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. (Persnickety Press: 2017).

Picture of children surrounding a globe

Alyson Beecher hosts the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at kidlitfrenzy.com. Visit there for more great nonfiction picture books!

Happy Halloween!

Books in the Scientist in the Field series look and feel like a picture book (albeit hefty ones at 80 pages). They get shelved with nonfiction picture books. But inside, they’re middle grade material, complete with chapters.

They’re also totally engaging. Every chapter in this book features a different scientist working on some aspect of bat conservation. The photos are wonderful and the text accessible. It’s not a read aloud, but by the time I was finished, I was starting to plan how to build a bat house for my backyard.

And if you enjoy The Bat Scientists, be sure to check out The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery,  by Sandra Markle, another middle grade read masquerading as a picture book. Its gripping true story will have you cheering for the bats around you.

The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson, photos by Tom Uhlman. Houghton Mifflin, 2013.

This moving autobiography tells the story, in first person present tense, of a boy who stutters but can speak fluently to animals. We live with him through the despair and loneliness of school and then find, with him, the joy of researching jaguars in the wild. We see his passion to protect the jaguar from poachers overcome his disability. “I have a voice now to speak for animals.”

And we get that whole story in 789 carefully-chosen words. This book proves the idea that conciseness gives writing power.

A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CáTia Chien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2014.