Review of You and the Bowerbird

You and the Bowerbird You and the Bowerbird
by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Maris Wicks
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.
8/23    9781250849878    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250347398    $11.99

Perched in a treehouse on the border of an Australian rainforest, a young child (“you”) keeps a journal chronicling the activities of a busy male satin bowerbird. The child first observes this royal blue DIYer constructing a bower (dubbed by Gianferrari as his “bachelor pad”). Like all bowerbirds, he painstakingly erects a two-walled arch of sticks leading into the space; he then decorates it with found objects (feathers, straws, and the like—all blue, this bowerbird species’ signature color) to attract females. One comes, quickly followed by younger satins who repeatedly vandalize the bower. Our human observer shares a few objects to help him rebuild; a female approaches his new digs, and the two mate (offstage). The female retreats to build her nest and, with a progression depicted through comic panels, the nestlings become fledglings and depart, eventually to begin their own cycle. An author’s note expands the text with particularly accessible explanations, including both print and internet resources for further inquiry. The curious child provides readers with a literary avatar, allowing them an immediacy in observing the actions of this fascinating bird. Bright, digitally colored illustrations with black outlines depict the action, offering visual confirmation for the author’s textual comparisons in nature to common household items. In one case, the bird decorates with a “welcome mat,” clearly shown to be a blue feather. Gianferrari (Fungi Grow, rev. 9/23) puts out her own welcome mat for young naturalists.

From the November/December 2023 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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