Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Boisterous Abodes

It snowed last night.  It's April not November so the local flora and fauna are in a bit of shock.  Early this morning the robins were in a vocal tizzy, probably calling for a riot against Mother Nature.  It's easy to imagine those coming forth from winter homes snuggling back in for a few more weeks.  Those intent on the arrival of spring babies are renewing efforts to make proper residences.

On this Earth Day 2015 I am happy to celebrate the fifth book in a series by author Dianna Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long.  Their last collaboration, A Rock Is Lively, left readers ready for more of their outstanding observations about our world.  A Nest Is Noisy (Chronicle Books, April 14, 2015) is a fascinating examination of spaces made for newborns.

A nest is noisy.
It is a nursery of chirp-chirping...
bubbling babies.

A beginning speaks of how bird nests are constructed but also points out orangutans build similar structures high in rain forest tree tops.  It's comforting to know leaves are used to provide a rain-proof roof.  Comparisons are made in size; the largest at three feet long and up to sixteen feet high of a dusky scrubfowl and the smallest nest of a bee hummingbird.  Two inches is tiny.

Nests can be constructed within cactus for protection, of wood fibers chewed to make paste and of pebbles on a streambed.  The ingenuity of a foamy nest in trees and a nest formed of bubbles on water, each lasting only long enough to protect the eggs and babies, is completely captivating.  Heat figures in the formation of some nests acting as a kiln.  In others the temperature causes the babies to be either male or female.

Not all nests are above ground.  Some are tucked into the sand on beaches, tunneled along streams or burrowed into desert meadows.  Bivouacs are living nests created by the insects themselves; they, millions of them, are the nest.  Those army ants know how to work as a team.

Birds known for their pink feathers and long legs lay only one egg.  It is placed on top of a mound of mud, grass and stones. Another brave bird, the buff-breasted paradise kingfisher, is willing to sacrifice its life, to break a hole in a termite nest so eggs can be laid in a created tunnel. Whether it's noisy or quiet, large or small, sharp, soft or hard, squishy or crumbly, warm or hot, hanging, above or below ground or silent, these nests are a testament to the marvelous adaptability within the animal kingdom.

With the skill of a naturalist and poet, Dianna Hutts Aston takes readers on a tour around the world giving us a peek at animal parenthood.  Each statement of a nest is presents readers with supporting information in detail.  Aston, through research, is able to provide those captivating details which enlarge our respect for those beings inhabiting our planet.  They, by instinct and resourcefulness, create the best possible place for their young.  Here is another sample selection.

Cave swiftlets concoct a nest made entirely of saliva.  Swinging its head from side to side, the male spits long, pearly strands onto the wall of a cave that harden into a lacy bowl when exposed to air. ...

The intricate full-color pictures rendered in watercolor by Sylvia Long are breathtaking.  When you open the matching dust jacket and book case the illustration spans to the left; the back including the nest of a bald-faced hornet at the top, a black-tailed prairie dog, tunneled underground, in the center and an American alligator at the bottom.  The details on the leaves, flowers, branches, and animals are nearly photographic but softened by the medium.  The opening and closing endpapers are a close-up of a bird's nest, woven materials swirling and intertwined.

On the next set of two pages, Long pictures twenty-four nests on a crisp white canvas, which is used splendidly throughout the book with most of her images. (Prior to the closing endpapers we see the twenty-four animals which left those nests showcased on two pages.)  The verso and title page feature the tree and top of an orangutan nest.  All of the following visuals are either edge to edge on two pages or a masterful blend of one page into another.  Each nest displayed is flawlessly connected to the next.  We are up-close and personal with these illustrations.  All of the text is hand-lettered labeling each nest and inhabitants.

One of my favorite pictures is after the title page. The background is a pale golden yellow.  A moss-covered branch extends from the left across the gutter.  In the center on the right is the nest of a ruby-throated hummingbird.  Two babies with beaks open are waiting for the adult to place a bug in their mouths.  Leaves and vines of a trumpet flower are placed in the upper right-hand corner and along the left side.

This newest volume, A Nest Is Noisy, in a stunning series written by Dianna Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long is a must-have for your personal and professional shelves.  It's a tribute to the creativity and cleverness of our animal partners.  Readers of all ages will leave a reading of this title enlightened in the best possible way.

Please take a moment to learn more about Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long when visiting their websites by following the links attached to their names.  The publisher has provided a teacher's guide.

I am happy to participate in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge each week at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.  Please stop by to read about the other featured titles.


  1. These books are gems, & A Nest Is Noisy sounds wonderful, too. It is wonderful to hear about the diversity of animal living in our world. Thanks Margie!

    1. I agree Linda. I am amazed at what Dianna presents in her text and the beautiful artwork Sylvia provides. Every home and library should have these books.

  2. I LOVE the title for this post!
    I've thumbed through my copy of the book, but haven't been able to read it cover to cover. I shared it with our kg teachers last week and it looks like they are interested in using it. I will probably share your post with them too :)

    1. Thank you, Michele! You are going to want to have your copy back as soon as you can. I could not believe all the new things I learned. Your kindergarten teachers might want to pair this with a book I reviewed last week, You Nest Here With Me.

  3. Eek! I love these books, but this one in particular is so beautiful. They all are, though!

    1. I love them too, Teresa! This one is as stunning as the others.