As the Crow Flies
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
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All day long, you’re on the go.
You don’t have time to watch a crow.
But we’re here . . . and here . . . and there.
We poke our beaks in everywhere.
Crows can be noisy. They can be nosy and bold, too, which some people find annoying. But if you are lucky enough to live in a place where crows roost, you know they can also be funny, ingenious, and beautiful.
Beautiful to look at and fun to read aloud, this book created by Sheila Keenan and Kevin Duggan will make imaginations soar as high as the crow flies.
Sheila Keenan is an established author of fiction and nonfiction, including Greetings from the 50 States; Animals in the House: A History of Pets and People; O, Say Can You See? America’s Symbols, Landmarks, and Inspiring Words; and Gods, Goddesses, and Monsters: A Book of World Mythology. Her latest work, Dogs of War, is a graphic novel of historical fiction based on the role of dogs in the military.
Kevin Duggan’s work draws inspiration from the great natural history artists of the past, while seeking new insights into the plants and animals we coexist with. His work has been exhibited from Nantucket to Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; from Marfa, Texas, to the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London. He is a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Florilegium Society. This is his first book. See more at www.kevinduggan.com.
Sheila and Kevin are married and live in Manhattan, but have spent many delightful (though chilly) hours in Upstate New York observing crow roosts.
From Publishers Weekly:
Books about humans observing animals are common; this book turns the tables, imagining crows watching us. “Meanwhile, you don’t have a clue:/ We’ve got our bird’s eye trained on you,” writes Keenan (Greetings from the 50 States) as a crow is shown taking food out of a dog’s bowl right in front of the dog—it’s leashed, the clever bird knows. First-time illustrator Duggan’s images mix static calm with dynamism, tranquil cityscapes with speeding cars. His portraits of crows and their antics are faithful and careful, and he makes especially effective use of panels to convey sequences of events. It’s more of a naturalist’s journal than a nonfiction reference—the scenes were inspired by crow behavior the husband-and-wife team witnessed firsthand. One series of panels shows a crow in flight carrying, dropping, and recapturing a plastic straw, attesting to the birds’ startling capacity for play: “Garbage that you leave behind/ is just the game we had in mind.” Readers should look more closely at crows after they read Keenan and Duggan’s book, but not before lingering over the illustrations. Ages 4–6. (Sept.)
From School Library Journal:
Keenan and Duggan have created a dandy introduction to the raucous birds. Speaking in short, rhyming couplets, the avian narrator walks readers through an urban neighborhood as it explains how crows steal food, mess up car windows, and keep warm by flying through the city calling loudly during daylight hours, then roosting together in leafless trees on cold fall and winter nights. “And when you’ve finally/noticed we’re here/darkness falls/...and we disappear!” Soft realistic colored-pencil drawings flow smoothly from page to page, closely following the narrator’s observations, sometimes showing a two-page panorama–often splitting it into four or six segments, offering glimpses of a scene from various angles, or a number of scenes across the spread. On some pages, a large central illustration adjoins a narrow segment on each side, with the narrator occasionally peeking in. An author’s/illustrator’s note reminds children that “Crows are great adaptors… and are among the smartest animals in the world.” This lovely example of picture-book design–a beautiful meld of text and illustrations–deserves a place on both school and public library shelves.
Rhyming couplets celebrate the abilities and ubiquity of crows and the noisy crowds of a city winter roost.
Observations of crows in Troy, N.Y., contributed to this story and pictures by a husband-and-wife team. In the first half of the narrative, Keenan describes individual crow behavior: stealing food from pigeons, dogs, and people; splatting on windshields; tracking dirt on clean laundry. In the second, she observes them in large winter groups: cavorting in the air and perching in large numbers. “We cause such / a mighty ruckus, / there’s no chance / you’ll overlook us.” The rhymes work, but the regular iambic beat may make this difficult to read aloud without sounding singsong. This is the first picture book for Duggan, an experienced nature painter. His realistic illustrations, which look like pastels and pencil, vary in size and perspective. Readers see crows close-up on the ground, in the air and, from above, flying high over the city across the double-page spread. Panels in series show a crow waiting for the green light to cross and peck at roadkill. In one particularly effective illustration, a close-up crow pokes his beak around a panel frame. “We’ve got our bird’s eye trained on you.”
A helpful addition to the nature shelf, especially for its uncommon focus on urban birds.
"This could be useful as an introduction to a nature study lesson or as a poetic part of a bird-themed story session."