Another difficult review to write, because this book is a genre-breaker. Like Helfer's book about the lion
, this one is really a biography but it's about an animal rather than a person. Hoose dedicates the careful attention to this individual bird we would expect from a biographer. At the same time, however, the book is jam-packed with all of the visual features and structure we have come to expect from exemplary informational text.
1. Sourcing. Eight pages of chapter by chapter notes in back matter; Annotated bibliography with 23 items on three pages, in categories.
2. Photos. They are at once compelling and relevant. These images are all about providing context for B95's journey. In a biography we are used to seeing all of these photos crammed into the middle plates, but because this is a hardcover informational text the information-text style was granted free rein to place the full color photos throughout the text. Brilliant!
3. Informational features. Captions, maps, diagrams, infographics, text vignettes in blue boxes, datelines in chapter headers, subsections when needed, profiles of key scientists as sections within chapters--everything that encourages browsing over cover to cover reading. (That's how I've been using this book over the past week.)
4. Text. Extremely reliable, and well-connected to specific scientists and research traditions. All woven into a compelling narrative packed with science identities, science processes, and science thinking. Just like we expect from good National Geographic format, there is plenty of text here--a lot of reading to do when I was done browsing. Yes, the info-text features lead me to browse, but also eventually to settle in for some longer focused reading.
Beyond all of the high-quality design (Roberta Pressel is credited in the front matter), the book gave me an interesting aesthetic 'in the moment' experience of following this bird across oceans and continents. In all, I'm surprised this book didn't win the 2013 Newbery.