Is This Panama? A Migration Story by Jan Thornhill, illustrated by Soyeon Kim, Owlkids, 9781771474474, 2021 (originally appeared in hardcover, 2013)
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? Sammy, a young Wilson’s warbler, feels the cold on his toes and notices the paucity of insects. A host of nearby animals clear up the mystery: he’s a migratory species! He heads south and is shepherded along by other birds, insects and even a whale. Following this storybook format, children will get many particulars about fascinating topics: who stays and who doesn’t, how various species adapt to cold, how to best navigate man-made and natural challenges. The watercolor illustrations, accented with pen-and-ink, are vibrant and perfectly lovely. It looks as though Kim has cut out her animals and plants and then layered them on to soft-edged backgrounds, adding shading to convey their three-dimensionality. The text is lengthy, but the story is moderately suspenseful and very interesting. End matter includes a map of Sammy’s journey, more information on each of the species he has encountered and information on the hows and whys of animal migration.
Anything you didn’t like about it? You do have to be willing to get over the fact that the animals are talking to each other instead of eating each other (although Sammy wisely stays away from a snake). Some elements seemed fanciful. For example, when Sammy gets tired, a sandhill crane (in flight) and later a humpback whale offer to carry him for a while. Does that really happen?
To whom would you recommend this book? Children aged 4-8 who are interested in migration facts. This would be a good read aloud for spring or fall, when warblers are on the move.
Who should buy this book? Elementary or public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: June 13, 2021