Saturday, July 6, 2019

Review - Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel: And Other Poems of Birds in Flight

Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel: And Other Poems of Birds in Flight
by Susan Vande Griek
illustrated by Mark Hoffmann
Date: 2019
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This lyrical celebration of birds explores the fascinating ways these creatures move through the air. For each of twelve birds from around the world, a captivating poem describes the animal's distinctive movement and the special word associated with that movement, from geese who skein and puffins who wheel, to crows who mob and starlings who murmurate. The evocative language conveys the beauty of each bird and describes the sights and sounds of how each one makes its own unmistakable way in the world. An informational sidebar complements each poem, describing the reasons behind the bird's way of flying.

Award-winning children's author Susan Vande Griek has created a unique exploration of the magnificence of birds in flight. Illustrator Mark Hoffmann captures the animals with bold, highly engaging artwork that makes this book a visual standout among traditional nature books. All of the factual content has been verified by ornithological experts. End matter includes further information about each bird and a glossary. Along with the book's use for poetry units, it also has applications for life science lessons on animals and the characteristics of living things.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a bit of a strange non-fiction title. Poems about various species of birds are interspersed with explanatory blocks of prose. While it sort of works, I'm not sure if the type of kid who wants to read about the habits of birds is the same type of kid who wants to read poetry.

I'm also not convinced by some of the word usage. As another reviewer pointed out, some of the words that Vande Griek uses as verbs are not verbs. While I wouldn't normally have a problem with that in poetry, this is first and foremost a non-fiction title for children. I prefer to see language following the rules in this kind of book.

The illustrations are adequate, showing off the distinctive features of each type of bird. However, some of the pictures just don't look quite right. The illustrations aren't photorealistic, which is disappointing given the non-fiction nature of the book. (Some of the crows actually look more like bats; some even have a weirdly human quality that's kind of creepy.)

Combining poetry with non-fiction information is a unique concept, but I'm not entirely sold on the execution here. This could almost be separated into two books--one of straight poetry, one of straight non-fiction--and they'd probably each work better on their own.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

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