Birdwatchers and Bird Feeders

Ever since I reviewed Who Lives In This Meadow? and After The Sun Goes Down, I have been watching the Purple House Press website, eagerly waiting for Bird Watchers and Bird Feeders by Glenn Blough to be available for purchase. I sincerely enjoyed the first two books, but I knew this one was going to be special. 

We are birders. We have many bird feeders. We watch the birds in our wooded neighborhood along with our retired neighbors, and together we celebrate sightings and compete to see who can draw the cardinals into their yard. We trade tips and tricks for managing the wasps near the oriole feeders, and which mint jelly solution works best to keep the chipmunks and squirrels from climbing up our stands and stealing all of the suet and seeds. I knew we were going to love this book, but given our dedication to our feathered friends, I wasn’t expecting to learn much new from a children’s picture book. I am so often wrong about these things! Now, my only regret is that we didn’t start with this book a decade ago! 

When we began our homeschooling journey, I learned very quickly that tracking down a copy of the Burgess Bird Book was a must. Like Anthony Coafield of Living Book Press, however, I have mixed feelings about that book. In our podcast interview with him, he emphatically said several times, “Show! Don’t tell! Show! Don’t tell!” While this is a wholly different kind of book, Anthony’s recitation of Charlotte Mason’s admonition kept popping into my head as I read. Though this book definitely “tells” it does so as it is showing. It is wonderful, and I can see why Charlotte Mason fans have loved it for years. Bird Watchers and Bird Feeders does not read like a dry science book, but reads instead like a friendly conversation between a mentor and a protege. Again, I love it. 

Organizing by seasons, Dr. Blough explains what is happening in our yards (and he differentiates for each region) from the perspective of someone who loves the birds and who wants what is good for them. 

“When there is snow, the snow falls on everything . . . it covers the berries and the seeds that grow on the branches of the bushes and the trees and the weeds that grow under them. It covers the bark where there are insect eggs and other foods that birds like to eat. That’s why the birds have a hard time finding anything to eat when the snow and ice comes. That’s why a bird feeder is especially important in winter.”  

Dr. Blough helps children visualize the landscape, and gives them incredibly practical things they can do to both love the birds and take good care of them. He does it through storytelling, question asking, and the highlighting of interesting facts young readers love to know. He even includes an entire section of riddles that invite the reader to guess which bird he is talking about. It is a lot of fun!

One of the things that was new to me was the process of banding birds. Dr. Blough is very careful to explain that only specially skilled bird watchers are licensed to be bird banders. Then he explains what they do, how the birds are tracked, and what to do if you find a dead bird in your yard that has a band on it. 

I appreciated that Dr. Blough recommends interested readers set out a variety of bird feeders, baths, and houses to attract birds into the yard. Instead of just telling us this, the winsome illustration by beloved children’s illustrator Jeanne Bendick shows many drawings of different kinds of feeders, from mason jars and homemade options, to fancy store-bought feeders. On another page, a similar discussion ensues about which foods are best for drawing in particular kinds of birds. 

All in all, this book in any printing is a treasure. If you were to get only one Glenn Blough book (although I think all are worthy and wonderful), this is the one that I would recommend as a first choice. 

I had the joy of reading the Purple House Press 2022 reprint. There are some notable improvements worth mentioning in this reprint. 

Keeping with the spirit and intention of the original, Purple House Press wanted to do what earlier publishers could not afford to do. They added color to all of the pages. In the original printings, every other two-page spread is in black and white. In the PHP reprint, there is color on every page. To preserve the feel and intention of the book, the colorization PHP added is completely consistent in color and style with the other pages. 

Sample of the original b&w illustration

Also in keeping with the spirit of the text, Purple House Press updated some of the menu items and the banding website to be consistent with current information. We are confident that these are updates Dr. Blough would have wanted, as he intended to give children accurate and usable information in a lively and memorable way. 

Updated Menu and Colorization
Original Menu

I continue to be amazed by how many incredible books I missed out on as a child! I am particularly grateful that Tanya Arnold of Biblioguides recommended these books to Purple House Press. This fall we will be chatting with Jill Morgan of Purple House Press and Tanya Arnold of Biblioguides about the growing Nature Study Library at Purple House Press. Tanya’s impeccable taste and Jill’s incredible work are making an incredible resource available to all of us!