The Backyard Bird Chronicles

Create a Venn diagram of "bird nerds" and "word nerds," and the result will be close to a single circle. People who read are very often people who love birds, and The Backyard Bird Chronicles is custom-made for them, with evocative illustrations and lively narratives from celebrated writer Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, The Valley of Amazement). A foreword by ornithologist David Allen Sibley calls the book "a collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words." Tan's skill in accurately representing her subjects is undeniable, but she is quick to distinguish her art from that found in a field guide: "They are not illustrations of species of birds. They are portraits of individuals who looked at me whenever I looked at them, who acknowledged and accepted me as part of their world."

Tan's jottings span from 2017 through 2022, including 2020's Covid-19 lockdown. She reflects on the countless uncertainties of that time: "Almost everything seems like a potential transmitter of disease and death--the groceries, a doorknob, another person. But not the birds. The birds are balm." While readers may feel those particular threats have waned, The Backyard Bird Chronicles will still be a comfort, full of inspiration and encouragement to do as Tan does with her drawings, "to wonder in depth, to notice, to question." Tan's curiosity extends endlessly, so questions abound; some are answerable, others unknowable, but all point readers to a type of attention many long to capture for themselves. Put this book in their hands. It will be loved. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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