Hoose, Phillip. Moonbird. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2012. 160p. Grades 4 and up. Non-fiction. (2013 Sibert Honor Book).
This non-fiction work combines narrative and informative styles to tell the migratory story of B-95, aka “Moonbird,” and the plight of his shorebird species, the rufa red knot. Alternating between the almost adventure-like tale of B-95’s migration from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic and back and an examination of the complex ecological reasons behind the diminishing numbers of red knots, this book holds readers’ attentions and provides them with both a fast-paced narrative to follow and well-researched facts to learn. Also included in the text are character studies of various scientists and conservationists important to the study of red knots, particularly the long-lived B-95.
Thoughts- I found this little book, in a word, charming. If that seems a strange adjective to attach to a non-fiction book about shorebirds, well, maybe it is, but it is also the perfect way to describe this story of the Moonbird and his cross-hemispheric migratory travels. I was completely sucked into the story of this little bird and the plight of his fellow red knots in their struggle to survive against the odds of nature and the meddling of man. With no dialogue and only a few pictures, Hoose makes B-95 a real character with only a modicum of anthropomorphism. He also carefully outlines the science and technology behind the tracking of shorebirds around the world and explains to the novice birder the unique ecological requirements of the red knot and the reasons for its diminished population. Character studies of the scientists who study shorebirds are interspersed amongst the chapters and provide human faces to attach to the quest to save the red knot.
The wide age range of readership for this book seems to be one of its best qualities. I can see animal enthusiasts as young as 10 or 11 eating it up, but I also think the sophisticated science discussions and balanced approach to ecosystems work well for readers of all ages, including adults. Like any good non-fiction book, Moonbird has solidly researched facts and is filled with fascinating information about its subject. From the shores of Tierra del Fuego to the horseshoe crab-strewn Delaware Bay to the remote reaches of the Arctic, Moonbird takes its readers on the unforgettable journey B-95 and his flockmates make year after year in their biological quest to perpetuate the species.