Have you seen Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop yet? It is on the shortlist for the Cybils in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction category. Fuse #8 has predicted it might be in line for the Sibert Medal. If you haven’t seen it, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. It just another book in the Scientists in the Field series, right?
The fuss is all about the strangest, most wondrous, and captivating bird on the planet, called a kakapo parrot.
My family first learned about the adorable kakapo parrot from Sir David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds. The kakapo lives in New Zealand, known for its unusual bird life. In this case “unusual” is an understatement. These large, flightless parrots (weighing up to eight pounds) have soft green feathers that smell strongly of honey, of all things. The sweet smell is thought to come from a bacteria that lives on the birds. They are active at night, and hide during the day in burrows under the ground. That is not where you would expect to find a parrot at all.
Photograph from Brent Barrett at Wikipedia
This tale does have a sad part. Over the last few hundred years, the kakapo numbers have plummeted. A few times they were thought to be nearly extinct. Right now conservationists are trying valiantly to save the less than 100 birds that remain.
With the team of experienced nature writer Sy Montgomery and and fabulous photographer Nic Bishop, you know Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot is going to be high quality. Two of their previous books have been Sibert Honor books. What really tips this book into another category is their obvious passion for the topic. You can tell these two are thrilled to be freezing and wet on a remote island near Antartica chasing the kakapo story to share with us.
Photograph by Mnolf at Wikipedia
As Montgomery so eloquently reminds us, we don’t know the ending to this particular story yet. “We could be witness to one of the most thrilling conservation success stories in human history – or one of the noblest but most tragic failures.”
What do you think?
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (May 24, 2010)
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