TINY BIRD: A Hummingbird’s Amazing Journey
Robert Burleigh; Illus. by Wendell Minor
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt April 14, 2020
From BOOKLIST starred review
Burleigh and Minor combine their talents to dramatic effect in this lightly fictionalized account of a ruby-throated hummingbird’s fall migration south to Central America. The opening and closing spreads depict the titular Tiny Bird in actual size (4.5 inches from wing tip to wing tip); a slightly enlarged view of its nest and eggs, paired with objects for examples relative size; and a map of its 1,500-mile migration route. “Today is the day,” the story begins, that Tiny Bird embarks on its flight from the northeastern U.S. to its wintering grounds in Mexico. Its rapid wing movements are described in onomatopoeia (Whir! Zip! Zap!), and Minor’s gouache watercolors mirror the hummingbird’s energetic movements, showing it flitting to different areas on the page or narrowly evading predators. Double-page spreads of expansive countryside and the seemingly endless waters of the Gulf of Mexico dwarf Tiny Bird, subsequently illustrating the magnitude of the journey for such a small creature. Burleigh seamlessly integrates facts about the ruby-throated hummingbird into his propulsive imagining of its migration; the snapping jaws of fish and an unexpected storm are but two of the obstacles facing the intrepid flier. Back matter offers a page of hummingbird facts and tips and resources for creating hummingbird-friendly spaces. Kids will be mesmerized by this dynamic portrait of one of nature’s winged wonders.
From KIRKUS REVIEWS
A ruby-throated hummingbird flies 1,500 miles, from the northeastern United States across the Gulf of Mexico.
Naming his exemplar protagonist Tiny Bird, Burleigh chronicles its pre-migration feeding, its travels southward to the Florida shore, its perilous journey across the Caribbean (a convenient fishing boat provides a resting spot), and its arrival in its tropical winter home. The simple narrative is set in short, poetic lines. There’s suspense: “Over the first pounding waves, / it begins its nonstop flight of more than twenty hours. / Can Tiny Bird make it? Many hummingbirds never do.” The traveler just misses being eaten, first by a hawk and then by a large fish, and weathers a storm. And there’s expressive language, with alliteration, occasional rhyme, and plentiful imagery. After the successful trip, “Tiny Bird rests and feeds, / flickering from flower to flower / like an emerald spark flashing in the bright sun.” While the writer ascribes no gender to his character, Minor’s colorful paintings show a male. In images that feature huge flowers or the vastness of the ocean, the bird is appropriately small, but he’s magnified, reflecting his enormous courage, as he flies through the storm. Information about hummingbird size, flight, and feeding habits is sprinkled throughout the narrative and further developed in a final page of “fun facts”; there’s a map and additional facts on the endpapers.
A fine addition to “sense of wonder” collections. (tips to help hummingbirds, resources) (Informational picture book. 3-7)
From THE HORN BOOK
In the late days of summer in the northeastern United States, a ruby-throated hummingbird (here called Tiny Bird) “feels a pull and know it must go” on its migration journey to southern Mexico. Flying solo over farmland, cities, and the Gulf of Mexico. Tiny Bird encounters peril in the form of predators and storms but safely escapes each incident to reach its winter home. (The text does note, however, that “many hummingbirds never do.”) Scientific facts about hummingbird feeding and flight are emphasized in the formative text and the light-and motion-filled illustrations, which skillfully convey the bird’s movements. Action words (“Zip!” “Zap!” “Swoop!”) throughout accompany the pictures that freezeframe Tiny Bird midflight, snapping up mosquitoes and dodging the snapping jaws of fish. Changes in scale show the bird’s small stature in perspective, up close next to relatively gigantic flowers, or almost invisible when flying near pelicans and boats. Endnotes provide informative details about hummingbirds and encourage readers to make their yards hummingbird friendly. DANIELLE J. FORD
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