Parrots Over Puerto Rico, by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, is everything good about picture books. The book is unique and colorful and had me reacting with grins and smiles and gasps.
A few of the newest picture books I’ve read have had some novel approaches to the genre. This 2014 publication from Lee & Low Books is one of them. It is aligned sideways. or rather, longways. Meaning, when you open the book you have to turn it so you are flipping pages up, rather than to the left. This format is necessary to accommodate Susan L. Roth’s stunning collage illustrations, which show the height of the trees, and the birds far up in them. The collages are intricately detailed and vibrant; they are simply gorgeous.
The story of the Puerto Rican Parrots is also the history of the island. It walks through people’s habitation and use of the island, the wars and changes in nationality that washed over those shores. We learn how this once prolific species of native parrots was slowly hunted and captured, their forests cuts, and their nesting trees overtaken by invasive species. As per usual with humans, it wasn’t until there were only twenty-four parrots counted in the wild, that people finally decided to turn things around. The last third of the book shows the process that scientists took, and are taking, to build safe aviaries, hatch eggs in captivity, and protect the wild population.
Most awe-inspiring to me was that scientists taught the captive raised parrots how to avoid raptors on the hunt. They made a little leather protection vest to put on a parrot, then set a hawk loose on it, to demonstrate to the other parrots what an attack looked like. The parrot with the leather vest was protected, and the other parrots got a good show. Predator-aversion training, they called it. Who knew?
Parrots Over Puerto Rico, though non-traditional in some ways, still has the requisite last pages of actual photos and more detailed information about the scientists’ work with the parrots, a timeline of parrot life on the island, and a final hopeful attitude about what’s next for these birds. The goal remains that by 2020 the parrots will no longer be listed as endangered. It’s books like this that make me think we just might get there.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Copyright © 2014 Amanda K. Jaros All Rights Reserved.