Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
by Phillip Hoose
This is a finalist for the YALSA 2013 Award for the Excellence in Non-Fiction. This review is part of their reading challenge! Learn more about YALSA, the award, and the challenge here!
Moonbird is based on a small shorebird called a rufa red knot, known by the number B95. First seen in 1995, this bird has flown from the southern tip of South America to north of the Hudson Bay every year for 20 years. Overall, he has flown to the moon and half-way back!
This book traces a typical year in B95's journey. We start in South America, where B95 has grown out his flight feathers. There, he gorges himself on the mussel spat on the coastline, and eventually, feels the urge to go! He flies through two days and nights to his next stop. And this in only the beginning.
Moonbird was a very interesting read. The "story" is constantly supported with set in blocks of text with more information, pictures, and stories of people the author met while writing about B95. The pictures are great, showing lots of different settings and views of the birds. Not only is this book a study of the bird itself, but also of some other connected species, such as the horseshoe crab.
At first, this book seemed to be very heavy on the environmental protection. While that remained an undercurrent through the entire book, it lightened enough that I became more interested in the book. The environmental theme is definitely still present, and a reason behind the writing of the book, but information about the bird's amazing journey was more emphasized. I did like some of the features it had at the end, including resources (where he got his info), what we can do, a bibliography, and an index.
Occasionally, this book almost switched writing styles, from a presentation of facts or telling a story about people who are gathering the information, to something that "supposedly" happens. This was most obvious during the chapter on the bird's stay in Canada. Instead of presenting facts, or having someone there collecting information, it changed to telling a possible story about B95's parents, and what they may have been like. This transition in styles bugged me, and I kept focusing on the "might have" and "possibly" instead of the facts.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this book once I got into it. The information was great and told in an organized manner. I liked how the author told not only the story of B95, but also how it connects and interacts with the world around it. The explanation of cause and effect (why the bird went where) was very well done. I only wish that the environmental bias had been not as forceful and overt.