Monday, December 3, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Moonbird by Phillip Hoose

Nonfiction Monday is a weekly meme in the Kidlitosphere that invites bloggers to read and review a nonfiction book on Monday as a way to promote high-quality nonfiction titles.  Each week, a different blogger "hosts" Nonfiction Monday and provides a roundup of all the posts.  This week Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Booktalking.

Nonfiction Monday

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

B95, the "Moonbird," is a rufa red knot who has flown his annual 18,000 mile migratory route from the Southernmost tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic - and back! - so many times that his flights combined would equal the distance to the moon and halfway back.  First seen in 1995, researchers have seen no other rufa red knot as many times or for as many years as B95.  He has become the unofficial "spokesbird" for perseverance of his species in the face of many challenges.  As if the sheer length of this shorebird's flight were not impressive enough, consider that his species can fly for days at a time without stopping to rest or feed, and that as a consequence of the long flight, each time he lands, he is in a completely different climate with none of the same foods and so grows new body parts to enable consumption the local diet.  If you're not intrigued yet by this bird, then perhaps the 80% reduction in the population of rufa red knot will capture your attention.  Author Phillip Hoose spent a year travelling along the route of the rufa red knot, following B95 and his flock-mates from one end of the world to the other, learning about this impressive species and the plight it faces due to the complex ecosystems on which it depends, and assisting research teams with tracking  the birds.

 When I first picked up Moonbird I did so because it was nominated for Capitol Choices.  I enjoy reading nonfiction, and I absolutely loved Hoose's Claudette Colvin, but the subject matter - shorebirds - just wasn't calling to me.  So it sat on my "TBR" pile for a long time.  I even brought it back to the library and checked it out again a few times before I even got around to opening it.  But once I finally got around to opening the darned book, I was quite pleased with what I found.  I read the book in one sitting, and I'm not sure I would've done that if Hoose hadn't had the brilliant insight to see more than a story about the survival of a species.  By constantly bringing the story back to B95, it made the story personal, er, birdsonal. I kept turning pages because while I knew things looked bad for the rufa red knot as a whole, I was cheering for B95 and hoping that somehow, against all odds, he would be seen again.  I was also particularly riveted by "Chapter 3: Showdown at Delaware Bay," because I spend a lot of time at my aunt's house on the bay in North Cape May and my school's science program works extensively on conservation efforts for the Chesapeake Bay, which is further south, but close by and similarly troubled.  That chapter alone had me eager to share this book with my faculty and to arrange to be on the Delaware Bay when the rufa red knots arrive.  In between chapters, Hoose profiles various people who are mentioned within the chapters for their involvement in research and conservation efforts for the rufa red knot.  An appendix provides suggestions on "What You Can Do" to help.  A full complement of back matter (source notes, bibliography, index, photo credits) is included.

Recommended for: middle school students with an interest in shorebirds and/or conservation, and teachers (science or otherwise) who work with students on bay conservation projects or endangered species topics.

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