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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Taking Time for a Close Look

Jackie: Searching for Minnesota's Native WildflowersPhyllis is on the road with her beautiful and informative new book Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers. [While Phyllis is out of the room, I will say that I love this book. It makes me want to get out and find flowers. Iowa has many plants in common with Minnesota and I look forward to tromping with Phyllis and Kelly.)

Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers puts me in mind of April Pulley Sayre’s wonderful nature books. She’s written many, but today I want to focus on a few of her bird books, plus one.

My first encounter with Sayre’s writing was Vulture View (illustrated by Steve Jenkins, 2007). Sayre captures the lives of vultures in few words.

Vulture ViewWings stretch wide
To catch a ride
On warming air.
Going where?
Up, up!
Turkey vultures tilt, soar, scan
To find the food that vultures can…
…eat.

Vultures like a mess.
They land and dine.
Rotten is fine.   

We see them eating, cleaning, preening, and sleeping. Then the story circles back to the beginning as the sun comes up and “Wings stretch wide/to catch a ride.”

We learn all we need to know to appreciate vultures in these terse rhymes. And if we want to know more, the book has two dense pages of back matter. Turkey vultures are easy to spot, range—in the summer—all over the eastern U.S. They would be a great bird for beginning birders to study.

Woodpecker Wham!In 2015 Sayre took a look at woodpeckers—Woodpecker Wham! (illustrated by Steve Jenkins). Once again, the birds’ story is told with quick, lively rhymes:

Swoop and land.
Hitch and hop.
Shred a tree stump.
CHOP, CHIP, CHOP!

In the case of this book, dessert comes first. Steve Jenkins’s gorgeous cut and torn paper collages combine with April Pulley Sayre’s rhythmic telling of woodpeckers’ lives to keep us turning pages until we get to the back matter—six pages packed with additional information about woodpeckers. “How do woodpeckers know where to dig? First the woodpecker taps the tree. This causes insects inside to move. The woodpecker hears the movement or feels the vibrations through its bill.” Sayre also tells readers how they can help woodpeckers. “Plant bushes, trees, and cacti that supply fruits and nuts.

And she provides tips on how to find woodpeckers. 

This books is a simple and thorough introduction to woodpeckers. Perfect prelude to a walk in the woods.

Warbler WaveAnd just this year Beach Lane books has published Warbler Wave, an amazing book about warblers with photographs taken by Sayre and her husband. I have trouble identifying warblers with binoculars. I am amazed that April and Jeff Sayre were not only able to spot these busy birds but spot them long enough to photograph them.

I want to quote the entire book but will leave you to find that pleasure. We learn that they fly at night, cross oceans, “Then bedraggled, they drop. /A refueling stop. /They must find food/ or die.” Then follows a few pages of stunning photographs. “They flit, like flying flowers.”  They snag insects and are on their way north again.

For those who want to learn more about warblers, there are again six fact-packed pages concerning warbler life history, how to help warblers, and the importance of warblers. “Warblers and other migrating birds cross mountains, oceans, and human political boundaries. …Their beautiful songs, colorful patterns, and seasonal arrival bring joy to people from Alaska to Peru. Whether you live in North America, South America, or the Caribbean, you can help welcome the warblers and share in this natural connection between diverse habitats, wild birds, and people.”

The book was a labor of love. April Sayre writes in the Acknowledgments section “For twenty-eight years, my husband, Jeff, and I have set aside the first couple weeks of May to celebrate warbler migration. So, it’s extra special to me that he’s joined me by taking some of the photos and reviewing text for this book about our shared love: warblers.”

Raindrops RollFinally, another book with April Sayre’s stunning photographs Raindrops Roll (2015). The book opens with a tree frog looking quite philosophical about rain. (A photograph Sayre notes that was taken by her husband). We see a drenched blue jay, rain drops on leaves, petals, pumpkins, even a moth.

These books make me want to get outside, to look, to see again what I have been missing.

I hope—and I know Phyllis joins me in this—that you have that kind of summer, that you are stunned by the beauty in your neighborhood, see again and see anew.

We’ll be back with more books in the fall.

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