Review of Hummingbird

Hummingbird
by Nicola Davies; illus. by Jane Ray
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
5/19    978-1-5362-0538-1    $16.99

Weighing less than three-quarters of an ounce (or, in Davies’s spot-on comparison for young readers, “less than a nickel”), the ruby-throated hummingbird migrates annually between Central and North America, approximately two thousand miles each way. Davies details these journeys within a tale of a young girl who visits her grandmother in Central America and encounters hummingbirds feeding in the garden. Several months later, having returned to New York, the youngster spies the remnants of the nest of one of the avian travelers. Most pages include information about hummingbirds printed in a small typeface, distinguishing expository details from the story narrative. Here readers can discover that the birds lose half their body weight flying across the Gulf of Mexico and that their nests are tiny (another apt comparison: “the size of half a walnut shell”). Often, illustrations reinforce this information, as when the explanatory text states hummingbirds are insectivores and also consume nectar and we see two women attracting the birds with multiple bug dispensers and bowls of sugar water. Ray employs the jewel tones of the birds and the flowers they feed on (such as scarlet sage and trumpet honeysuckle) to create an airy yet lively backdrop that is as full of motion as the fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings. A map shows winter and summer habitats, while an author’s note explains how ornithologists track and study hummingbirds. An index and a brief bibliography complete the book.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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