ON BIRD HILL – Booklist Review

ON BIRD HILL – Booklist Review

Does Jane Yolen Ever Sleep? We Really Want to Know.

By Cindy Dobrez & Lynn RutanJuly 11, 2016

Lynn: OK, I really want to have a heart to heart with Jane Yolen. I want to talk to her about her exclusive children’s book series on the new trade publishing imprint from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and her gorgeous new book, On Bird Hill (2016). But I also want to talk to her about sleep.

I don’t believe the amazing Yolen has time to sleep. She’s the author of over 350 books—350 books!—including this one. I, like many women of a certain age, struggle with insomnia, but whereas I stumble around like a zombie, Jane Yolen keeps on making beautiful books. Does she sleep? I need to know!

While I await this insight, let me talk about this truly lovely new book. This is first in a new series created especially for the Cornell Lab Publishing Group, dedicated, according a recent press release, to furthering “the Cornell Lab’s mission of nurturing new generations in the appreciation and care of birds, setting the stage for environmental custodianship.” That is a wonderful mission, and if Yolen’s contribution is any indication, this effort has started very promisingly.

Yolen’s sweet rhyming text is based loosely on a cumulative nursery rhyme first published in 1912. In Yolen’s version, a small boy and his dog explore a wondrously strange valley, where they come upon a bird sitting on an egg that hatches as they watch. The bird and its chick are unlike any I’ve ever seen, but the peace and joy of the event smiles out from the pages. The narrator switches from boy to bird, as chick and boy observe their world, underscoring the intertwined relationship of humans and nature. I also love Bob Marstall’s fantastical illustrations.

Cindy: I have no trouble sleeping, but if it is, in fact, insomnia which allows Jane Yolen to create so many riches for her readers, I’m thankful for it. I suspect that those of us jealous of her talent must waste too much time on lesser pursuits. Whatever the cause, I’m delighted that she has yet another outlet, one that created this perfect rhyme:

The chick was tiny, shell was thick,
But crick, crick, crack, he was so quick.

We are all explorers once we leave our egg and look around. Marstall’s curving lines and paths draw the reader in with tiny nature scenes and humor. The illustrations not only complement Yolen’s rhyming text perfectly, but enhance the theme of paying attention to the world around us.

Coloring book fans should also turn their attention to the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s most recent release, this week’s America’s Favorite Birds: 40 Beautiful Birds to Color (July 16, 2016), by Miyoko Chu and Brenda Lyons. Large illustrations are paired with bird information, as well as a full-color photo spread of the forty birds portrayed therein that serves as a reference for those who want to be accurate in their color choices. I think I’ll buy a copy for Lynn so that when she’s up in the middle of the night, she’ll have something to do.

In the meantime, Jane Yolen will probably have written another book. (Publisher Hint: She has.)

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