Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond,  illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond,  illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Peachtree, c2019, 2020. 9781561459544

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  A little girl and her mom wake up early to take part in the annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Ava is extra excited this year because their team leader Big Al, a huge White man with a bushy red beard, has asked her to keep the all-important tally. Richmond does an excellent job of embedding an explanation of the event and the necessary tools and tasks right into the narrative, with no awkward asides. Ava also explains to readers the concept of citizen scientist and why their help is essential to recording bird populations. After bundling up, the trio is off to count birds, with Ava’s list appearing on the right edge of each page so we can keep track of what they’ve seen and counted. Happily, the bird identification task can also be a counting event for young readers! As the group finds each new species, the characters discuss some attributes that will help aspiring birders, including calls, behavior, and habitat. The bird’s name then appears in bold type, to further emphasize the importance of correctly identifying the animal before adding it to the list. The digital illustrations resemble watercolor and although the figures are simplified, they could still be used to help kids recognize familiar birds. A small dose of tension is supplied by Ava’s hope to see and count a raven, which would be an unusual sighting in her neighborhood. Ava and her mom have light brown skin and reddish-brown hair and join a racially diverse group of birders at the end of the book for a campfire and hot chocolate. Backmatter includes information about all the birds Ada’s little group finds and directs readers to more resources. Richmond also includes an author’s note about her own involvement in the Christmas Bird Count.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I wish we had been given the geographic locale for the story. With all the snow and eastern U.S. birds, I’m guessing New England, but as location is super important in birding, it would have been helpful. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  With its large, clear illustrations and positive role models for citizen science, this would be a great read aloud for children ages 5-9 who are interested in birding. It could also be an activator for a unit on birds or serve as the basis for an arithmetic lesson on addition.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: September 3, 2021

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