________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007


Birds of Prey: An Introduction.

Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovacs.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
48 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-439-93880-8.

Subject Headings:
Birds of prey in art-Juvenile literature.
Birds of prey-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4


Most birds of prey probably can’t smell very much at all, but a biologist friend told me an interesting story about Turkey Vultures and a gas pipeline. The pipeline had sprung a leak and the engineers were having trouble finding it. Natural gas has no odor, so they added a chemical to the gas that made it smell like rotting food. Soon, a group of Turkey Vultures like this one were attracted by the smell and they gathered at the site of the leak, expecting to find a meal. The engineers then simply followed the circling birds to the leak.

Artist, naturalist and avid birder, Robert Bateman has long been fascinated with raptors and has had several opportunities to view them in the wild in many different parts of the world. This book provides a general overview of the two main types of raptors- hawks and owls. Bateman describes the special characteristics which help birds of prey to survive and to be such excellent hunters. Anecdotes about Bateman’s encounters with raptors, as well as information about each bird, comprise the majority of the text while small notepad-like fact sheets list the bird’s length, wingspan, weight, food, range, type of migration and natural habitat. Whenever two birds are featured on a double-page spread, one of them is given top billing, consisting of the notepad fact sheet and a large painting, and the other is depicted in a much smaller painting on the facing page. Additional topics include the specialized physical adaptations of raptors- beaks, feet and talons- as well as mating habits, nest-building, eggs, the young and fledglings. Interesting, little-known facts will appeal to readers, such as kestrels’ ability to see ultraviolet light so they can find voles (whose urine reflects ultraviolet), or how falcons and owls will reject food if it’s not fresh. The book ends with a brief account of the important role that birds of prey play in nature and the threats to raptors’ survival, such as the loss of habitat and humans’ use of pesticides.

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     The combination of Bateman’s writing style, a simple text font so as not to detract from the artwork, and realistic, detailed paintings is very successful. By mixing facts with personal anecdotes, explained in a manner which is easy for children to understand, Bateman engages readers. Throughout the book, his respect and appreciation for raptors are evident, not only in the text, but also –and, especially- in the paintings. His birds are so lifelike that one can almost feel the feathers.

     An excellent introduction to birds of prey.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.