Have you heard? Phillip Hoose has a wonderful new middle-grade book released this month, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. After winning the 2009 National Book Award with Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, he has gone in a new direction, but once again he has found a little-known main character whose story deserves to be told.
Who or what is “moonbird?” The title refers to a tiny bird who has flown an estimated 350,000 miles – over the distance to the moon and halfway back – in his lifetime!
The moonbird is also known as B95 because that was the number he was banded with in South America in 1995. He is a male shorebird commonly called a red knot. He’s a member of the rufa subspecies, which migrates from the tip of South America all the way to the Arctic Circle and then back each year. Scientists have been spotting B95 during portions of his trip. The most recent sighting was in May of this year. If you do the math 2012-1995 (when he was first tagged) = an age of 17 years. That is impressive enough, but scientists estimate he was already a mature bird when he was first tagged, which means he was probably at least three years old. B95 is some 20 years old and still going strong.
It is tempting to tell you all the details about amazing B95, but we’re supposed to be reviewing the book. Phillip Hoose follows B95’s journey, starting with a trip to the tip of South America to visit the spot where B95 was first banded. He then moves to the critical stopover station in Delaware Bay, before traveling north to the birds’ breeding ground in the Arctic and then heading south again. To keep the reader oriented during all this moving about, the book contains numerous helpful maps. Also, at each stop Hoose meets and profiles dedicated scientists who study the birds. The final chapter addresses the issue of extinction, why you should care about these tiny birds, and, as you will find out, horseshoe crabs as well. He also brings the story back to young people and what they can do to help.
In the Appendix, Hoose lists a number of child-friendly organizations and projects that welcome participation and promote education about birds and conservation issues. The book also has source notes and a bibliography for those interested in learning more.
Although this is a wonderful book, it not an absolutely perfect one. It is difficult to cover so much territory without a bit of disjunction occasionally (discontinuous threads), as well as some redundancies. Overall, however, it has surprising emotional appeal as you find yourself rooting for this amazing little bird to keep on going.
Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 is a must-read book for budding ornithologists and conservation biologists. Others who read it might just be inspired to take up a new hobby, birdwatching!
To keep up with the latest news of B95 and Phillip Hoose, check his website.
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (July 17, 2012)
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This week’s round-up is at Check It Out.