Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot (Scientists in the Field series)

I am fascinated with the series Scientists in the Field. Again and again, they produce captivating books that explore scientists pursuing interesting, challenging scientific investigations. This series makes science real, breaks it down so kids (and parents!) can understand it, and make us want to learn more. I highly recommend them both as read-alouds to 3rd - 5th graders, and independent reads for 5th - 8th graders. I loved The Frog Scientist, by Pamela S. Turner, and this winter I was fascinated by Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot, by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. As we all celebrate Earth Day, this is a wonderful book to share that explores what scientists are doing to bring a species back from the brink of extinction.
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot (Scientists in the Field Series)Kakapo Rescue:
Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
by Sy Montgomery
illustrated by Nic Bishop
NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010
ages 9 - 14
available on Amazon and at your local public library
winner of 2011 Robert F. Sibert Award for Nonfiction
The kakapo (pronounced KAR-ka-poe) is an endangered, flightless parrot, the largest in the parrot family, and the only nocturnal parrot. With beautiful green feathers and a charming bewhiskered face, these birds are wonderful to watch. They smell like sweet honey, are intensely inquisitive and can live to be over 100 years old. This unique bird lives only in New Zealand, and most of its original habitat was either destroyed by men or invaded by non-native species. Furthermore, they have a very specific diet and their reproductive cycles are heavily influenced by climate and environment. Now, only 120 kakapo survive. When the book starts, there are fewer than ninety endangered kakapo alive on a tiny, rugged island south of mainland New Zealand. They have been removed here to protect them from rats, dogs, stoats and other predators. Kakapo Rescue follows the determined efforts of scientists and volunteers trying to save the Kakako from the edge of extinction.

Photography by Nic Bishop, from Sy Montgomery's website
Montgomery and Bishop follow as scientists and volunteers track every bird on the island. These dedicated individuals work night and day, especially monitoring eggs as the adult kakapo forage for food. With such a tiny, vulnerable population, every egg and chick is crucial to increasing the number of kakapo alive.

I know many of my students will be fascinated to read about these scientists, and will feel empowered that scientists and environmentalists can really make a difference. It takes incredible perseverance, but it can be done. The Kakapo Recovery Organization has an excellent website. When Montgomery and Bishop left the island, there were only 87 kakapo. Now, the website reports that there are 120 kakapo. There is a kids page with great information and even the sounds of a kakapo, and you can also explore all sorts of information. I was especially interested in reading about the current nesting tables, showing how many eggs were laid and how many chicks were born each year.

For more information, check out Sy Montgomery website. I also was very interested in this recording at Teaching Books from Sy Montgomery. You can read an excerpt from the book here on Sy Montgomery's website. And teachers will find a wealth of resources on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt site, with many different teaching ideas and connections across the disciplines.

Kakapo Rescue was honored with the Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished nonfiction book for children in 2010. It also received star reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. It was also a finalist for Middle Grades Science Book from the SB&F/AASL awards.

If students like reading Kakapo Rescue, I'd recommend other books in the Scientist in the Field series. Pamela S. Turner's Project Seahorse also examines significant work scientists and environmentalists are doing to protect animals.

For many other nonfiction resources to share with your children, check out Nonfiction Monday. It's a weekly event hosted around the Kidlitosphere and is a great place to discover wonderful books for children. Today it's hosted by Peggy Thomas at Telling Kids the Truth: Writing Nonfiction for Children.

The review copy comes from our home library collection.  If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

1 comment:

  1. Nic Bishops' photography is amazing! I have read several of this books.