My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio

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My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A more than competent primer to get the young thinking about different birds and their various looks, habits and so on.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 48 Date: May 2017
Publisher: Wren and Rook
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781526360007

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I never really caught the bird-watching habit, even with the opportunity of growing up on the edge of a village in the middle of nowhere. It was in the family, too, but I resigned myself to never seeing much that was spectacular, and once you've seen one blackbird you've seen them all, was my thinking. If I'd had this book as a youngster, who knows – I may have come out of it differently, having been shown the diversity of the bird world in snippets of text, and some quite unusual illustrations…

Beyond fore- and end-pages that act as galleries of birds' eggs and feathers, we get a short precis of lots of birds, accompanied by over-sized, full-spread illustrations. The text is clearly designed to be friendly for the young – it never goes into evolution, or other such essential facts regarding nature, but succeeds in summing up every bird, partly through the use of trivia – the bittern's camouflage, the mass mating demonstrations of the black grouse, the regurgitating owls. You'll never get a full picture of any one bird, as something from their habitat, their colouring, their diet or their breeding will be left out. But it's not designed to be comprehensive, rather to give an over-view by multiple example.

So we turn to the artwork. I had looked at several images from this book before reading they were paper collages – I didn't know if they were digital or how they were made without being told. And again they kind of go for the superlative – the slightly angular, upward poise of the crane, the feathered feet of the ptarmigan in his winter clothing, the compact efficiency of the wren's nest. The thing is, they have the right characters and the right colours, but they won't win too many awards for veracity. They have a kind of felt-cut quality, and however many well-placed fields of colour there are, they don't ever truly convey the plumage, or the real image of the birds here in flight.

Pointedly, the author's introduction talks of my album of artistic impressions of some of my favourite birds. And this strikes one as one of those rare instances amongst books for the young where the titular My is still the author's, and not the reader's. It's not truly my book of birds, unless my name were Geraldo Valerio. The scientific-minded educationalist may dismiss the book, then, as the artwork is truly too personal to be really proven by nature, but I think the volume still works. It succeeds in opening the young eyes to the variety of birdlife, while never getting too academic. And it does show that any man's life can let him see a succession of diverse avian creatures, all of which he could find something remarkable in. Like I say, I may well have been encouraged by that as a youngster, and you may well feel the same.

I must thank the publisher for my review copy.

The Big Bird Spot by Matt Sewell will teach the patience needed in finding the right bird in nature.

Buy My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio at

Buy My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio at


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