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Poetry Prose and Other Words

by Ken Ingham

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Book Review

Flute's Journey: The life of a wood thrush
written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry
(a Harcourt and Brace Gulliver Green Book)


A Great Gift for a Little Friend

I envy Lynne Cherry's brand of environmental activism; it has the potential for long term results. This local author’s latest book, Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush, is one that could conceivably compete with video for young children's attention, maybe even inspire them to learn the names of a few birds in addition to all those cartoon characters. The message is clear; Flute and his kind are our friends and they need our help. It is hard enough to survive the constant threats of hawks, cowbirds, raccoons and domestic cats without having to deal with loss of habitat to human development. Flute's best hope and ours is that large numbers of young people will get this message and join the ranks.

Beautifully and accurately illustrated, each colorful page has a mesmerizing scene: a nest made of "leaves mud and fine rootlets" containing four turquoise eggs; Flute competing for a "squishy" worm dangling above a sea of gaping throats; Flute in flight or taking a bath; dogwood blossoms grinning and waving. Two lustrous centerfolds depict Flute among other avian inhabitants of Belt Woods in Maryland and Bosque Eterno de los Ninos (Forest Eternal of the Children) in Costa Rica. The story centers on Flute's migration between these locations whose positions in the larger world are sketched on the inside covers. All the covers, inside and out, are bordered by paintings of several dozen species of birds, in a simple but accurate style that any child could learn to duplicate if so inspired. Lets play point and name, Gramma!

The academically rigorous will be reassured by the long list of experts and organizations that are acknowledged for their help. A few big words like arduous and indigenous will help to stretch the vocabularies of young readers. But you don't have to be young to appreciate the beauty of this book and its intent. I found it uplifting. I'm going to give my copy to a little friend and buy another for myself.

Ken Ingham, 1997