Friday, February 28, 2014

The Cuckoo's Haiku

The Cuckoo's Haiku and other Birding Poems
by Michael J. Rosen; illus by Stan Fellows
64 pages; ages 5 and up
Candlewick Press, 2009

Themes: animals, nature, poetry 

wild turkeys' snow tracks
their arrows point us one way
they go the other 

This book is better than a bird guide! It's a haiku field notebook in which Michael Rosen captures the essential characteristics of twenty-four common North American birds. His spare observations are complemented by the gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Stan Fellows - who details everything from field markings to habitat.

What I love about this book: I like the way it is structured - by the seasons. It opens with spring, and the Eastern Bluebird.

on a staff of wires
blue notes inked from April skies
truly, springs first song

In addition to haiku, Rosen includes field notes: the chestnut throat and breast; the males are darker and brighter blue; that bluebirds are thrushes, related to robins. Fellows paints them perched on electrical wires like notes on a staff which, if I could read music, I could play on my recorder. What tune has he hidden in this illustration?

a summer spread, featuring the Pileated Woodpecker and insect prey
I like the details in the artwork - from showing the insects that the woodpeckers seek to wing bars, crests, and feather details. Each spread becomes a field trip into the world of that bird. At the back of the book, Rosen includes five pages of notes about the birds he features: their mating behavior, food preferences, flight and other things that curious bird-watchers will want to know. 

Beyond the book: Write some bird haiku of your own. Spend time watching the birds at your feeder, or perched on a clothesline, or sipping water from a puddle in the parking lot at the grocery store. Start by drawing or jotting notes on the things you notice about this bird: feathers, crest, color of its beak or feet, whether it has a chin strap, eyebrows or wing bars. What is it doing? Where is it? What is the season and the weather? 

Check out more haiku activities here. And head over to Archimedes Notebook today to check out a brand-new book about feathers and do some hands-on science activities. Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing. 

Today's review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.

On Monday we'll fly over to join the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens.  Review copy borrowed from a library.


  1. You DO have birds on the brain today!!! But I won't make a joke about being a bird brain...sorry - couldn't resist. This also looks like another bird book I will have to check out. My library bag is going to be overflowing this week---sooooo many good books.

  2. Oh, my. This sounds like a wonderful book and looks beautiful to boot. I love haiku, I love birds, and I am definitely going to check this book out. Thanks for telling me about it.

  3. Another brilliant bird book! It looks so interesting. I love the haiku. Great activities for kids. Thanks for the heads up on the Nonfiction Monday round-up.

  4. LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! Where did you get it? Don't tell me you got a publisher copy or I will be SUPER jealous! Good reviewing!

    1. our library system has it... and I loved it so much I bought a copy.

  5. What a lovely way to present a non-fiction book on birds - using Haiku! Thanks for flying over to my PPBF post too :)

  6. I kind of feel like I should buy this for my bird-watching Dad. I think he'd love this.

  7. I'm with Kirsten. I feel like I should get this for my bird-watching mother in law.

  8. Hi, it's the author here! Hello, all. What a treat and a surprise to find this dear book of mine featured on your site! It's true: Stan Fellows is a thrillingly talented artist. (He also illustrated my book, The Dog Who Walked with God, a Kato People creation story. Alas, out of print.) Honestly, this book has been such a favorite of mine...and others. It inspired Candlewick to let me do a dog version, The Hound Dog's Haiku, and (secret: next spring), The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers.
    My Website have a few long interviews I did in conjunction with this book...and a PDF that outlines ways to use haiku across the curriculum. Oh, and lots more. There's also a link for contacting case any one wants an autographed book.
    All best...and many thanks for all you're doing for young readers, Michael J. Rosen

    1. thanks for dropping by! Dog & cat haiku - how excellent!

  9. Oh Wow! What a lovely book! My Mom Person has a thing for field guides. This one looks like just the one I need to find for her! And how cool for Mr Rosen to drop in with all the extra fun. I'll have to look for that Dog book!