Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators by Jim Arnosky

Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators
by Jim Arnosky
Sterling, 2011
ISBN: 9781402756610
The reviewer obtained a copy of this book from her local library.

Excuse the pun, but nonfiction bird books fly off the shelves at my  library. Many of my patrons are fascinated by bird facts and pictures. (I have to admit that I'm a sucker for a good bird book, too.) So, I was eager to pick up a copy Jim Arnosky's latest nonfiction picture book about birds of prey.

Thunder Birds is titled after the Native American eagle spirit, and it's evident from the introduction that Jim Arnosky has great respect for birds. Each section of the book is dedicated to a different bird or family of birds including eagles, falcons, owls, herons, loons and pelicans. Arnosky uses acrylic paint and white chalk pencil to create stunning full-page illustrations of the birds of prey. On one page, Arnosky perfectly captures the texture of the snowy owl's body; it looks like you could reach out and feel the soft downy feathers.

Arnosky describes his experiences watching and interacting with the different types of birds in a first-person narrative that accompanies the full-page illustrations.

"Of all the birds that I watch, I love watching herons and egrets the most. There is such suspense in the way they slowly stalk fish in shallow water, bill downward, long neck poised to strike."

In addition to the full-page illustrations and narrative, the book includes four fold-out pages that are sure to capture the attention of readers. The first fold-out page is impressive as it shows an osprey with one wing extended while grasping a fish in its claws.  Black and white sketches in the margins illustrate the talons, feathers and bodies of various birds.

Arnosky includes interesting facts about the different birds of prey, but I do not see this as research book for students to use for school assignments. This is a work of art, a book for bird lovers, aspiring artists, and young naturalists. If a child comes to the library with a list of questions to answer about birds, steer him or her to a "just the facts, ma'am" type of book. However, if you have a child who loves nature, science and art, don't let the child leave without checking out Thunder Birds. It may serve as an inspiration to children who want to watch birds or create their own nature books. Arnosky even provides a list of parks and wildlife preserves that he visited while working on the book.

5 Stars
(Grades 2-6)

Create a bird display with these titles: 
Birds of America by John James Audubon
The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies
Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web by Victoria Crenson
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York by Janet Schulman
White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies


  1. I'm going to look for this one; thanks for sharing it. And I love your bird display picks!

    Loree Burns

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. Raptors are fascinating and can appeal to many readers.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  3. Birds of prey are fascinating! There is a hawk that comes to my backyard now and then and I have a pair of binoculars by the window so I don't miss a detail.I'll check this book out. Another tribute to good science/nature photography. Thank you for posting today!

  4. Thanks for all of the comments! It really is a beautiful book. I can't wait for my students to get their hands on it!