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A PAIR OF WINGS by Marilyn Singer


by Marilyn Singer & illustrated by Anne Wertheim

Pub Date: March 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8234-1547-3
Publisher: Holiday House

This diverse writer, sometimes poet, sometimes humorist, sometimes naturalist, explores the topic of wings—how they are shaped, what they are made of, and how they work for their animal owners. She describes how the long, narrow ones of the arctic tern help the birds soar on air currents, while the rounded ones of the owl give this predator faster takeoff, and the slim crescent-shaped wings of the swallow allow them to twist and turn through the air as they hunt flying insects. She discusses the other uses of wings: to scare off rivals, to attract a mate, to lure an enemy away from a nest, and to cool off a hot bird. The text is rich in details that will intrigue and interest young naturalists, though the format of a large-sized picture book may deter some older readers. Each double-page spread is illustrated with full-color paintings of the flyers discussed. While the illustrations are beautiful and accurate, the inclusion of so many different animals on the same double page without regard for size, or region of the world in which they live, could be distracting. For example, one set of pages shows a black vulture, a bald eagle, a barn owl, a barn swallow, a hummingbird, a great horned owl diving after a mouse, a hummingbird approaching a flower for nectar, a flock of swallows, and two Emperor penguins with baby. Visually it’s a lot to absorb. The more successful paintings show a single habitat—a meadow, for instance—and the plants and winged creatures that live in and around it. Additionally, a sequence that shows how a bat uses its wings to catch its lunch is especially effective. The author concludes with Web sites and addresses of organizations to contact for more information about conservation, a glossary, further reading, and a brief index. (Nonfiction. 9-11)