________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 16 . . . . April 12, 2002

cover Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide.

Laurel Aziz.
Willowdale, ON: Firefly Books, 2002.
64 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55209-372-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55209-487-1 (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Hummingbirds-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***1/2 /4


Since the hummingbird possesses a minimum amount of body fat to store excess fuel, it has solved its metabolic challenges through diet. Its choice of nectar - the highest energy food available - is one of the keys to the hummingbird's success, and a healthy part of the hummer's day is spent in search of food. A special gut rapidly moves sugar into the hummer's system to produce energy to fuel its body. Even with its power diet, a hummingbird consumes half its weight in sugar every day. According to one researcher, it would take the nectar production of more than 1,000 fuchsia blossoms to sustain a male Anna's hummingbird each day. If a full-grown man were to burn energy at the same rate, he would have to consume 155,000 calories per day - the equivalent of close to 250 Big Macs - to survive.

Likely no bird attracts as much attention as the tiny acrobatic jewel of the avian world, the hummingbird. Though some 330 different species of hummingbirds can be found in North and South America, only five species regularly visit Canada each year. In Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide, Aziz does not limit herself just to the North American hummers but takes the larger hemispheric view of hummingbirds and treats her subject in three major and most readable sections, "Physical," "Behavior" and "Ecology." The edges of each section's pages are colour coded for quick identification. Within each section, various topics are dealt with usually via pairs of facing pages. For example, in the "Physical" segment, Aziz presents "Small is Beautiful," "Built for Performance," "Hot Little Machines," "The Long & Short of Bills," "The Eyes Have It," and "Glittering Fragments." Because the book's sections can stand alone and need not be read in order, bits of information, such as the birds' entering a state of torpor to conserve energy, will be repeated in other sections if these facts are also necessary to explain another topic. Occasionally Aziz incorporates coloured boxes of information to provide details which would not fit easily into a section's narrative flow. For instance, in "Trip Takers," a section of "Behavior," Aziz describes the migratory behavior of hummingbirds. A box, "Record Breakers," then provides details about the record distances travelled by various hummers. For those who want to go beyond simply reading about hummingbirds and actually interact with them, "Hummingbird Havens," a section within "Ecology," provides directions for readers on how to attract hummers safely to their yards. As the book is subtitled "A Beginners Guide,"Aziz provides an annotated webography of four sites for readers seeking more information about hummers. A three page index is available for quick access to specific birds or topics. Throughout, the book is generously illustrated with full-colour, close-up photographs of hummingbirds, often full page. While some photos are just decorative, most are functional and are used to illustrate the points being made in the text. While a "fact" book, Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide is also the kind of work that many children, adolescents and adults will pick up just as recreational reading.

Highly recommended.

An amateur birder, Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

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