As this year’s youngest birds begin their first fall migration, kids everywhere are also leaving the nest to embark on a new grade at school. To further educate the children in your life—and have fun while you’re at it—try a birdy book. On their bright, colorful pages, the ten stories below showcase the diversity of the natural world—and of the people who appreciate it.
From a collection of collages about bowerbirds to a history of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, these titles offer something to kids of every age and background. Young readers will learn fun facts about the wide-winged Wandering Albatross, search for hidden species in serene illustrations, and find themselves reflected in the stories of kids who just want to have fun.
By Mya Thompson/ illustrated by Claudia Dávila
(Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2019; 36 pages; ages 3-7)
A young girl named Ruby is practicing music at home when her older neighbor Eva invites her to the park. As Eva walks past the slides and swings and into the Central Park woods, Ruby doesn’t notice the many birds that frame their journey. But when Ruby's singing scares off a Golden-winged Warbler migrating from Costa Rica, Eva teaches her how to birdwatch. Mya Thompson, the author and project manager of Cornell’s educational site Bird Academy, celebrates urban birding in this sparkbird story—which includes a cover that doubles as a poster.
Buy it at Better World Books.
Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends
By Heidi E.Y. Stemple/illustrated by Clover Robin
(Seagrass Press, 2018; 32 pages; ages 3-7)
In the year 1900, an ornithologist named Frank Chapman founded the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. At the time, it was tradition to hunt as many birds as you could on Christmas Day. But Chapman put out a challenge in his magazine Bird-Lore—now known as Audubon magazine—for people to count the birds instead. Since then, Christmas Bird Count participants have grown from 27 to over 7,000 community scientists. In this educational book, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, who wakes up at midnight during the winter holiday every year to count owls, traces the history of the program. She also includes a how-to for getting involved in other bird censuses like the Great Backyard Bird Count.
By Leslie Bulion/illustrated by Robert Meganck
(Peachtree Publishing, 2019; 56 pages; ages 8-12)
This poetry book of avian extremes will teach your young one fun facts—and train you for trivia night, too. Author Leslie Bulion uses lyrical descriptions to bestow superlative awards ranging from the smallest (Bee Hummingbird) to the smelliest (Hoatzin). Detailed science notes and informative speech bubbles from a helpful chickadee accompany the literary elements. And if your favorite bird isn’t represented, don’t worry. As Bulion writes, “In truth, every bird’s a superlative bird.”
Buy it at IndieBound.
The Big Book of Birds
Written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer
(Thames & Hudson, 2018; 64 pages; ages 3 and up)
This Big Book—and it really is big—is a jam-packed primer on birds with something to offer kids of any age. Some sections illustrate the birdy basics: nests, feathers, and migration, to name a few. Others overview your favorite avian families, from puffins and peacocks to cranes and kingfishers. Author and illustrator Yuval Zommer, creator of other Big Books on beasts, bugs, and the blue (ocean), packs every page with detailed images of birds and their habitats. He even hides 15 eggs throughout the book to challenge the treasure hunters among us. If you’re looking for an even more interactive read, consider Zommer’s follow-up activity book, The Big Sticker Book of Birds, due out Sept. 19.
Buy it at Thames & Hudson.
Fly With Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories
By Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple
(National Geographic Children’s Books, 2018; 192 pages; ages 4-8)
Written by a family of birders, Fly With Me is a wide-reaching collection that unites science, history, song, poetry, and photography. Captioned photos cover species from all over the world, though you’ll also find birds that fly through your backyard, including your state bird. This deep dive into topics ranging from conservation to bird legends is guaranteed to keep you engrossed for hours on end.
Buy it at Powell’s.
By Susan Edwards Richmond/iIllustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
(Peachtree Publishing, 2019; 32 pages; ages 4-8)
Another book on the Christmas Bird Count, this narrative follows a young girl named Ava as she embarks on her family’s annual tradition. Accompanied by her mom and team leader Big Al, Ava tracks local birds across her snowy town. She keeps a tally of the species she spots, represented on the side of each page, as she recounts the rules of the Bird Count. At the back of the book, author Susan Edwards Richmond, who has participated in the winter tradition for the past fifteen years, supplements information about each bird Ava finds. Hits shelves on October 1.
Buy it at IndieBound.
Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me
Written and illustrated by Susan L. Roth
(Neal Porter Books, 2019; 40 pages; ages 4-8)
Susan Roth is famous for her collages. In this story, she compares her artistry to the elaborate structures built by bowerbirds, native to New Guinea and Australia. To woo a mate, the males build bowers, which are like elaborate wedding arches fashioned from twigs. The bachelor birds decorate their bowers with attractive objects, including feathers, flowers, and—for the modern bird—plastic and glass. Roth compares her creations to the bowerbirds’, noting how both types of artists love color, originality, and beauty assembled from found materials.
Buy it at Holiday House.
Written and illustrated by Christie Matheson
(Greenwillow Books, 2019; 48 pages; ages 4-8)
Ready to introduce your kids to birding, but not sure they can keep quiet long enough to watch warblers? Try Bird Watch. Within Christie Matheson’s tranquil watercolor and collage images of foliage, mammals, and insects, readers must find hidden avian species—almost as if they were birding in real life. Young readers will use their keen eyesight and observation skills to find concealed North American birds in a countdown from 10 Black-capped Chickadees to one Great Horned Owl.
Buy it at Biblio.
Numenia and the Hurricane
Written and illustrated by Fiona Halliday
(Page Street Kids, 2020; 40 pages; ages 4-8)
Based on a true story, Numenia and the Hurricane tells the tale of Numenia, who is a type of migratory shorebird called a Whimbrel. With poetic verse and scintillating illustrations, author Fiona Halliday describes the story of Numenia being torn away from her two sisters by a fierce storm. Through a journey that tests her strength, Numenia eventually reunites with her family. Available in January.
Buy it at IndieBound.
Written and illustrated by Carme Lemniscates
(Candlewick Studio, 2019; 40 pages; ages 2-5)
This simple, poetic children’s book with bright and bold illustrations celebrates birds and their unique differences. Rather than loading up the reader with bird facts, author Carme Lemniscates focuses on bird appreciation, celebrating the diversity of birds and the people who love them.
Buy it at Biblio.