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Building Baby Birder’s Library

December 4, 2009

New I and the Bird #114 over at The Life of a Bird Tour Leader


It is my aim, whether or not it’s realistic, to at least try to turn my progeny into a birder.  He’s already been a pretty good companion on short bird walks to local areas.  He sleeps for the most part, but lately he’s been really interested in everything around him.  I’m taking all this as a positive sign, and I’m looking reinforce it at home with cool books about birds or nature or evolution that are appropriate for little kids.  Very little kids that is, as Noah only ticked over the 6 month mark just recently.  I’m trying to get to him early, in the hopes that every colorful photo he stares at pulls him closer and closer towards the obsession that has, if my wife can be believed, taken over his father’s life.

Good bird and nature specific books for little kids have been sort of difficult to find, but we’ve been sent a couple that are pretty enjoyable.  The first, About Birds: A Guide for Children by North Carolina author Cathryn and illustrator John Sill, is full of really beautiful illustrations and short, succinct text about the range of bird diversity.  By that I mean that the basic format has a picture of a large bird, like a Heron or something, along with “some birds are big” followed by a hummingbird and “some birds are small”.  Whatever, this isn’t Dickens here, but the illustrations are big and colorful and hold a kids attention.  However, the book itself is big, nearly 12 inches by 8 inches, making it slightly difficult to manage while also controlling a squirming baby.  Also, the pages are regular paper in a hard-cover book, so there’s the potential for ripped pages and paper cuts for a grabby baby interested in getting up close and personal with everything.  So while I read this one to Noah early on, I’m putting it back on the shelf for the time being.

Peck, peck, peck by Molly CarrollThe other book I’ve come across is Peck, peck, peck, by Molly Carroll.  Much like the previous book, this one is formatted fairly basically.  The theme is how birds use their beaks to accomplish basic actions, so it’s a good primer on adaptation and diversity of form.  Instead of illustrations there are glossy full-color photos of birds doing their thing with their bills.  There is even a gross-out shot of a Bald Eagle going to town on a fish.  I embrace this stuff. Not only do Eagles, much like babies, eat really messily, but Noah shouldn’t be sheltered from the full-range of bird activities.  That nature can be gross, and it can also be awesome, like the parrots and woodpeckers also covered in full technicolor brilliance.   Needless to say, my six month old is totally engrossed in the photos in a way he’s not for other books we read.  I take this as a good sign.

This is a board book, meaning instead of paper, the pages are cardboard which also means Noah can grab and touch and stuff in his mouth at his leisure without worrying about ruining anything or getting hurt.  This book clearly receives the Noah Seal of Approval.

Cathryn and John Sill have a series of “About” nature books, very similar to the bird book, also aimed at children.  Molly Carroll has other books as well, though only one, on butterflies, appears to be nature related.

  1. December 4, 2009 7:20 am

    Aha, the beard is back.
    As Noah demonstrates in the second picture, it is the book’s taste rathern than the content that does the trick for babies. Wait until he grows teeth … and by the way, speaking about growing teeth: if you have a book you (and especially Noah) really like, buy several as a back-up.

  2. December 4, 2009 9:01 am

    Well, I know one thing that Desmond is getting for Christmas…nice review!

  3. December 4, 2009 9:19 am

    @ Corey: dip it in chocolate milk before you give it to him and he’s bound to love it and become an avid birder.

  4. December 4, 2009 9:21 am

    @Nate, just mentioning: I was serious about the back-up. It takes Erik less than a day to take a book completely apart, especially a book he REALLY likes, like the small ones you attach to the stroller.

  5. Nate permalink*
    December 4, 2009 10:43 am

    @Jochen- Good thinking, I’ll keep that in mind. It’s fortunate these books are inexpensive.

    @Corey- Happy to pass on the recommendation!

  6. December 4, 2009 11:31 am

    As the father of four, from ages eight to two, perhaps my two cents will be of value. Keep up with the cardboard books until they are past three because all other books will be consumed or torn to bits. I mentioned in a blog post here ( about a bird book from my early childhood that started some early fascination. Big coffee table books like The Encyclopedia of North American birds are good to leave laying around for kids to pick up and browse occasionally to spark birding interest.

  7. December 4, 2009 11:32 am

    Being fairly new to your blog I had never seen a photo of you. With the beard you look like a younger Kenn Kaufman.

  8. December 4, 2009 12:11 pm

    … with much the same perspective, I say.

  9. Nate permalink*
    December 4, 2009 12:14 pm

    @Robert- I loved those big coffee table books when I was a kid. I had much the same experience as you, not only with the handful that were around the house, but the many I’d check out at the local library. I need to build up my collection!

    And a young Kaufman, eh? Thanks! Though I wish I had half the talent of a young Kaufman…

  10. December 4, 2009 1:21 pm

    We have a few bird-related books for Julian. One is called Owl Moon and it’s about a father taking his son out owling. I think it won a Caldicott medal or something like that.
    We have one called just “Birds” that is a British book with photos and facts about birds. At a NJ Audubon nature store, I was amazed at how many bird and nature themed story books they had for kids of all ages. I need more. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Also, Mike Bergin recommended this one: I don’t have it yet, but I got it as a gift for someone once.

    I look forward to when Jules is a little older so he can play with the Birdscapes books without destroying them.

  11. Nate permalink*
    December 4, 2009 3:03 pm

    @Patrick- I read Owl Moon when I was a grade schooler, that one has been around a while. It’s very good.

  12. December 4, 2009 3:32 pm

    So far, I’ve picked up two copies each of Charlie Harper books “ABC’s” and “123’s” for children I know.

    And have every intention of piking them up for 3 more children I know (well children of birder’s I know) so…

    Don’t any of you go buying them!!!

  13. December 5, 2009 1:51 pm

    Hey Nate – cute-looking kid. I take it his mum must be a real looker 🙂
    My first BIG book was a thing called the AA Book of British Birds. I LOVED that book. Too heavy to lift when I first got it, but I devoured it when I was a kid (not in an Erik-stylee I hasten to add) and that book had such an influence on me…

  14. Nate permalink*
    December 5, 2009 5:19 pm

    @Christopher- How exciting, I didn’t even know those books existed!

    @Charlie- You could probably say that. He certainly didn’t take after me. 😉 I’ve been trying to find this big “Birds of the World” reference book that I wore my library card down to the nub checking out when I was a kid. Something very similar, I suspect. I predated my actual interest in the act of birding which is something I hadn’t considered the ramifications of until just now, actually..

  15. Kent Fiala permalink
    December 5, 2009 9:15 pm

    For slightly older children: I attribute my early development of an interest in nature, if not specifically birds, to the fact that my parents read books to me. I see that you can still find some of them on Amazon. I’d probably be uncomfortable with their anthropomorphism today but I loved them as a child.

  16. Nate permalink*
    December 6, 2009 8:36 pm

    @Kent- Those are great, and there’s a ton of them too. I’m going to check them out.

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