On a school trip to Honolulu’s Bishop Museum, Manu and his classmates are excited to see an ancient skirt made with a million yellow feathers from the ‘ō‘ō, a bird native to Hawai‘i that had gone extinct long ago. Manu knew his full name, Manu‘ō‘ōmauloa, meant “May the ‘ō‘ō bird live on” but never understood: Why was he named after a native forest bird that no longer existed?
So begins Jan Thornhill’s riveting, beautifully illustrated story of the House Sparrow. She traces the history of this perky little bird, one of the most adaptable creatures on Earth, from its beginnings in the Middle East to its spread with the growth of agriculture into India, North Africa and Europe. Everywhere the House Sparrow went, it competed with humans for grain, becoming such a pest that in some places “sparrow catcher” became an actual job and bounties were paid to those who got rid of it.
For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive.
In the open eucalyptus forest of Australia, an emu as tall as a human settles down on his nest to warm and protect the eggs left by his mate. When they hatch, the chicks will be ten times bigger than domestic chicken hatchlings and covered in chocolate-and-cream stripes to provide camouflage in the grasslands. This unusual family sticks together until the hatchlings grow up, facing dangers that include eagles and dingoes.
See the review at WOW Review, Volume VIII, Issue 1.