Arnosky, Jim. 2011. Thunder Birds. New York: Sterling.
In Thunder Birds, Jim Arnosky profiles “only the largest and most powerful birds” – eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, herons, egrets, pelicans, loons, cormorants and gannets. No matter where one lives, there is surely something familiar and something to be learned in this attractive nonfiction picture book for older readers.
The chapters are an appealing combination of “book knowledge” and experiential knowledge unique to Arnosky and his wife, Deanna. Regarding owls, Arnosky writes,
Prey animals are taken suddenly and without warning in the midst of whatever they happen to be doing. Only in bright moonlight might an owl’s intended victim sense what is coming, when it sees the hunter’s large shadow moving across the ground.How thrilling to imagine such a close encounter with a bird that many have never actually seen in the wild.
At night in the forest, while I was taking flash photos of owls, one of the big birds swooped down toward me from behind, lightly brushing my head with its wings. I felt it and then I saw it, but I never heard it coming.
Writing, of course, is not Arnosky’s only talent. He is an accomplished naturalist and artist. Each section of the book is illustrated with detailed pencil sketches and notes, similar to ones that might be found in a field notebook. Some, like the eagle foot, are drawn to scale. Illustrations created with acrylic paints and white chalk offer vivid depictions of the birds in their native habitats, many are life-sized. There are four foldout pages, including two, which are double foldouts. Many of the illustrations have textual overlays containing additional information on length, wingspan, etc. Particularly helpful to the aspiring bird-watcher are the silhouette illustrations for identifying birds in flight by their shapes. Also included are an Author’s Note, bibliography, and curiously, a metric equivalent chart.
Whether writing fact or fiction, Jim Arnosky’s love of the natural world is apparent in everything he does. Highly recommended.