The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds by Julie Zickefoose

The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds
384 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
"For as long as I can remember," writes Julie Zickfoose, "I've been fascinated by birds. Some of my earliest memories are of...being dazzled by their colors and sounds." Interestingly enough, you don't have to care all that much about birds to get sucked into her dreamy illustrated stories of bluebirds and phoebes, titmice and ospreys. In delicate, subtle strokes of the pen and brush, she reveals a lifetime of backyard friendships—moments spent observing a bluebird couple or listening to the calls of scarlet tanagers. Along the way, she not only endows each bird with human-like personality traits, enough so to bond you with her feathered companions, but also offers up some thoughtful commentary on our human inner lives, such as what she says while attempting to rescue a family of swallows from a rat snake, "I've never much liked catching large snakes over my head while standing on a ladder. Maybe there's a word for that little cluster of phobias. Stepnophidiophobia works; I just coined it. If what one is frightened of is truly, ridiculously scary, is it fair to call one's fear a phobia?" Zickefoose has spent a lifetime observing this particular corner of the domestic-wild world, and she did not escape these experience without gaining both wisdom and humor—about mates, about our obligation to help others or set them free, about loss and about thankfulness. "What does a bird know about gratitude?" she asks, speaking of sick white-throated sparrow she nursed back to health. "I can only say he followed me singing and, in singing, touched an inarticulate place in my heart."
— Leigh Newman