Kookaburra by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Kookaburra by Claire Saxby,  illustrated by Tannya Harricks. Candlewick Press, c2020, 2021. 9781536215199

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  In this nonfiction picture book, young readers will follow the story of a family of kookaburras, dropping in on their yearly routine of nesting, laying eggs, and rearing their young. Parallel text in a script-like font provides additional information about the species. From these asides, we learn that the birds mostly mate for life, that they’re very territorial, and that the females are larger than the males. A “More About Kookaburras” section at the end tells us they live in Australia and are members of the kingfisher family. A short index guides readers to information on food, nesting, and eggs, among other topics.

The star here, as in her previous outing in this series, Dingo, is Harricks’ artwork. With fidelity to nature, she turns live sketches into expressive illustration, building up layers of oil paint and using bold brushstrokes. What the paintings lack in detail, they more than make up in the way they capture the character and movement of the kookaburras, as they fly, share a skink snack, and chase away intruders. Even the endpapers are gorgeous, with vividly striped brown, black, and white kookaburra feathers floating on a blue, brush-stroked background.

Anything you didn’t like about it? My only complaint was about the timeline of the story. As the book opens, we see Kookaburra, her mate and three young birds sitting on a branch, but then the mated pair go to look for a nesting site. I was confused by this turn of events. Is it a circle story and this previews the end where the older birds have successfully raised a clutch? Or does the species raise more than one set of hatchlings per season?

To whom would you recommend this book?  Any young birders who love learning about new species. I always like the pairing of a story with supplemental nonfiction information, as it gives the reader the option of including more details as questions arise.

Who should buy this book? Elementary or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 598.78

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: August 20, 2021

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