Review of Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird

Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird
by Phillip Hoose
Middle School, High School     Farrar    160 pp.         g
9/22     978-0-374-38877-5     $24.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-38878-2    $12.99

Hoose chronicles the unique relationship between humans and the northern ­mockingbird in this medley of natural history, political history, mythology, and folklore. He demonstrates humanity’s early links with the mockingbird by recounting stories from Pueblo, Mayan, and Hopi cultures. From there, he discusses how the bird was misidentified by Columbus, appreciated by Jefferson, painted by Audubon, studied by Darwin, and more. The book does not shy away from the uglier aspects of history, from Jefferson’s reliance on enslaved people to the cruelty of the captive bird trade, with a thread of environmental concern running throughout. Hoose also highlights popular culture, including American songs featuring mockingbirds; and modern science, with new discoveries about their intelligence and capabilities. Back matter includes detailed source notes and suggestions for how readers can help preserve the northern mockingbird and other songbirds. While this book lacks some of the immediacy and firsthand observation of Hoose’s other titles ( Moonbird , rev. 7/12, among others)—a note acknowledges pandemic-related research obstacles—it compensates with breadth of scope and liveliness of prose and will likely leave readers with new appreciation for this common backyard bird.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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