Don’t Judge a Bird by its Feathers
Today (January 27) is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual celebration of multicultural, diverse and inclusive books for kids. A wonderful book we discovered this year via that online literary fest is Don’t Judge a Bird by its Feathers, by Tori Nighthawk.
What’s so great about this hardcover book? First, the illustrations are bright, bold, and jump off the page with their graphic impact.
Second, the story is full of information about the wild animals who live in the rainforest regions of New Guinea, especially the birds of paradise (who take center stage), but also many other exotic (to us) creatures – from the Green Tree Python to the Platypus to the Mimic Octopus. (An appendix explains more about each species that appears in the story.)
Then there’s a message: Kids too often judge each other by their appearances, and that’s not right. The storyline delivers a tale of a boy bird-of-paradise trying to attract the attention of a girl bird, while feeling too drab and unimpressive. The misguided bird decides to try to disguise his real self. Of course, the happy ending reveals that it is character that is the true measure of individuals and their friendships.
But the best thing about this story: It was written and illustrated by a young author, Tori Nighthawk, when she was thirteen years old! While impressive, it explains why the book is full of real insight about kids and how they try to impress each other with looks, clothes, jewelry, and the like, instead of focusing on more important character traits.
Here’s a message from Tori, who is now 16 and headed to college:
Ever since I was reading picture books, I have always been fascinated with the other animals we share our home with. I especially enjoy birds, as there is so much avian diversity to be found even in one’s backyard. They have beautiful colors and captivating behavior, and so it was natural that I chose them as my main focus for my first children’s book at the age of twelve.
It was the birds of paradise, the most beautiful and behaviorally interesting birds that I knew of, that captivated me. I decided to use the magic of their natural lives to make my own story richer. When researching, I first went to the old Animal Encyclopedias that I had from childhood. After I began to look on the internet for more information on several of the animals I chose to include, I was surprised to find that many were endangered and in need of conservation efforts. This is why I decided to have the main advisor of the story be a leatherback sea turtle, as they are a vulnerable species.
I found that the researching of the animals was my favorite part of the writing process, and this is something that I continue to do, often even without a project in mind. I bird watch and volunteer as a field trip guide, taking children out to see local bird’s magnificent displays in action. I sincerely hope that my book will inspire other kids to research animals and help conserve biodiversity.
Our congratulations to Ms. Nighthawk for this amazing book. We highly recommend it for school and public libraries, as well as for any collection of books for young readers about biodiversity, rainforest habitats, and animal behavior.
But its real story is about the behavior that we human animals engage in, with a message to learn from the diverse animals of the rainforests of the world about seeking our true nature, our real friends, and our special niche in the world.
To learn more about the author, here’s an in-depth interview with Tori Nighthawk at BYOU Magazine.)
To order Don’t Judge a Bird by its Feathers, visit Tori Nighthawk’s website.