The Young Birder’s Guide – Birds of Eastern North America
The Young Birder’s Guide – Birds of Eastern North America by Bill Thompson III, illustrated by Julie Zickefoose - Peterson Field Guides – Houghton Mifflin Co 2008 ISBN 100547119348
… clearly written for young people, and I mean that in both senses…
Being neither young nor resident in Eastern North America I opened this slim and handy pocket-sized fieldguide with some trepidation… …but having seen Julie’s illustrations before and knowing the Co-owner operator of Birder’s Digest to be a fine fellow it was not with too much trepidation.
The book is clearly written for young people, and I mean that in both senses; it is aimed at a young audience and uses clear and simple language that is neither patronizing nor simplistic and sets the right tone that would be understood by the youngest enthusiast but not baulked at by an adult beginner. When we first start birding we need to be told what not to where, or what ort of habitat suits each type of bird. The only thing I find a tad twee is the ‘wow’ category in the species accounts. To me it’s a bit ‘Disney’ and I would blame it on the US culture were this not also becoming as rife on my side of the Atlantic.
[A few years back people were dying vegetable lurid colours to make them more attractive to children… as this seems to have disappeared from the culinary stage I assume it didn’t hit home, and I suggest that the lurid colours of children’s TV programmes and the tendency for the presenters to leap about, shout and be ridiculously jolly will also prove to be just another example of an adults misperception of the perception of young people. I suggest it also leads to eventual disappointment with subtlety and less understanding of the natural world. I recall being on a pelagic off the South Island of New Zealand seeing Royal Albatross among the hundreds of Shearwaters and hearing a young American behind me saying “wow’ this is almost as good as Disneyworld”!]
Moreover, the facts (or should I slip into the genre of the ‘kidz presenta’ and say ‘factoids’) contained in the ‘wow’ bubbles are bother pertinent and interesting. I also find that the rest of the accounts whilst brief do contain the right précis of relevant facts which will help a newcomer to birding identify the birds they are seeing – which, surely, is the raizon d’etre of the guide. However, the illustrations are not as helpful as I believe they could be. Choosing to user photographs rather than good coloured line drawings is not, in my opinion, the right choice. Photographs are taken in different light, from different angles at different times so it is very hard both to compare one species with another, and to pick out the relevant ID features… which is why all the best adult guides like Sibley for North America, or Collins for Europe, do not use photographs.
Having said that would I recommend this to those whose youngsters are showing an interest in birds? Certainly! Its worth the cover price for the introductory pages alone and I think it would be well thumbed by young backyard birders before they need to be given their first Sibley.
Buy this book from www.nhbs.com
Created: 02nd Jun 2008