Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Mother Nature has a marvelous checks and balances system in place.  In northern Michigan our ash trees are dying in large numbers due to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Consequently we have an increased variety of woodpeckers that have set up residence.

This spring a Pileated Woodpecker flew in for a landing on the birch tree right outside my front picture window.  It was so close I wanted to reach out to touch it.  We have little Downy Woodpeckers dashing about on a daily basis.  While probably not new to the neighborhood but more visible lately is the Northern Flicker who likes to roam my lawn as well as the surrounding trees looking for food.

One of my strongly held beliefs, as I have mentioned previously, is the more our younger readers know about their natural world, the more apt they will be ready to preserve and protect it.  Woodpecker Wham! (Henry Holt and Company, May 12, 2015) is the most recent collaboration between author April Pulley Sayre and author illustrator Steve Jenkins.  (One of their previous books, Eat Like A Bear, is featured here.  In a staccato style reminiscent of the birds' rhythmic beak beats, chanting words pair with fascinating art as we explore the world of woodpeckers.

Swoop and land.
Hitch and hop.
Shred a tree stump.

Undoubtedly most of us have seen these birds sweep across our vision but learning about hitching enlarges your appreciation of their skills.  Much like Morse code their tapping is chatting among themselves plus it comes in handy when attracting a mate.  A bona fide feast is found under the bark once they set to work with beak and tongue.

Feathers and wings are cared for well; you never know when color will be needed for display or protection.  As tools their beaks carve homes for themselves and for other woodland dwellers.  They could give lessons to gymnasts in their ability to cling and hide.

As consumers of fruits, they're unknowing seed planters.  Baby woodpeckers keep parents busy until they can search and seize their own food as well fly on their own.  Squirrels have competition in woodpeckers storing food for winter.  Did you know that? And so it ends as it began.

Seventeen four line poems with lines two and four supplying a rhyming tempo welcome readers to woodpeckers and their realms.  April Pulley Sayre uses alliterative and onomatopoeic language to place the outside world on the pages of this book.  Aspects of interest to the intended audience are featured with accuracy.  To expand on the poems, Sayre has included six pages at the close of the book explaining more about the Woodpecker World.  Some of the headings are:

Champion Chiselers
Instant Messages
Seeds by Splat
Cleanup Time
Drilling for Cavities
Home Security

Here is another poem.

Spring sap rises.
Who will drill?
Sapsucker, sapsucker,
sticky bill! 

Spanning both the front and back of the dust jacket the turquoise sky heightens the colors of the highlighted woodpeckers moving about on parts of the same kind of tree.  The fine details throughout the book, the delicate lines, are already evident in these two birds.  Did you know the feathers above their beaks keep wood chips from their nostrils?  I really like the holes in the title text.  Those woodpeckers have been busy.

The different book case is the image used with the first poem.  The opening and closing endpapers are the same shade at the title words.  Northern Flickers flock and flit about on the informal and formal title pages.

Steve Jenkinscut-and-torn-paper collage artwork covers two pages with the exception of four single pages opposite one another.  These blend well together in design, layout and color.  Whether Jenkins gives readers a fuller view or a close-up of the woodpeckers, they appear real enough to fly off the page.

Two of my favorite illustrations are an extreme zoom of a woodpecker making a hole in a tree and two birds in a cherry tree.  In the first the tree covers one and a half pages.  Chips are flying as the hole forms.  We see this looking at the back of the bird's head.  In the second image the colors are striking; a vivid sky blue, black, white and red on one bird and brown, gray, black, red, golden yellow and rust on the other as they hang on cherry tree branches full of fruit and green leaves.

Woodpecker Wham! written by April Pulley Sayre with illustrations by Steve Jenkins is a wonderful portrait of these members of the avian community.  Authenticity is apparent in the words and artwork throughout the seasons of the year.  A page at the end is dedicated to further reading, websites, and acknowledgments.  I highly recommend this for your home and classroom bookshelves.  It's a read aloud treasure brimming with factual gems.

Please visit both April Pulley Sayre's and Steve Jenkins' websites to learn more about them and their other work by following the links attached to their names.  The publisher's website provides views of eight interior pages.  This title was one of several featured by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and at Kirkus.

Make sure you stop by Kid Lit Frenzy to see what other books were selected by bloggers this week who are participating in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  Thanks a thousand times over to educator Alyson Beecher for hosting this endeavor.


  1. I agree! The more students know about the world around them, more likely that they will have empathy for all living things including the Earth. I love learning about new books that help in our journey of bestowing this on our students. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for letting me know how you feel Kellee. Sayre and Jenkins make wonderful books.

  2. This is a Jenkins-illustrated book I don't think I've heard about. He really is prolific.

    1. Jenkins continues to create lovely illustrated books. I find his accuracy amazing.

  3. Oh, we've lost so many trees in our community because of the emerald ash borer too!
    I've had this book on my list for awhile and our library doesn't have it yet. It surprises me since it comes from Sayre and Jenkins.
    There have been a surprising number of books published in the last two years about birds. We should collect all the titles and get a list going!

    1. I have seven cut down so far and seven more are not looking so good. I wish your library would get this title soon. I agree about getting a lists together of bird books. Maybe the nonfiction 10 for 10 this winter?