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Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird (Scientists in the Field Series) Hardcover – August 2, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—This title takes readers to New Caledonia, where, as Turner puts it, "the forests are lush and the crows are geniuses." Comins's photos supply ample evidence of both. Under the guidance of crow researcher Gavin Hunt, expeditions to the island's wilds provide opportunities to watch the local species of crow display the astonishing ability not only to use found sticks to dig grubs from logs but also to make their own hooked tools from twigs or the jagged leaves of the pandanus—and to train a juvenile crow in the technique. Then later, under controlled conditions in a lab, captive crows (which are carefully returned to their home territories afterward) beat out groups of four- to seven-year-old children in performing feats of mental activity to get at an inaccessible treat. The author also surveys tool use by other wild animals, from chimps to crocodiles, and, with added art by de Filippo, compares the structures of crow and human brains. She closes with more anecdotes about corvid intelligence and leads to further information. VERDICT Required reading for anyone who believes that we are the only, or even the most, sapient species on the planet. Highly recommended for STEM and animal collections.—John Peters, Children's Literature Consultant, New York City
Nonfiction Detectives: Best of 2016
Nerdy Book Club Nerdies 2016 Longford Nonfiction
* "Turner’s friendly, sometimes joking tone effortlessly moves from amusing accounts of crow antics to sophisticated explanations of crow and human evolution. Comins’s arresting photographs of the sleek black birds in the island landscapes of New Caledonia highlight their personalities and intelligence."
—Horn Book, STARRED review
* "Required reading for anyone who believes that we are the only, or even the most, sapient species on the planet. Highly recommended for STEM and animal collections."
—School Library Journal, STARRED review
"...[Crow Smarts] also pulls together a wide variety of research on crow behaviors and weaves it seamlessly into the narrative. Detailed sidebars and lively photographs of shiny, bright-eyed crows break up the text while adding interest, and illustrated explanations of crow behavior are illuminating."
"With an approachable writing style and photos of crows festooning almost every page, this engaging volume with attract budding scientists, and the lively descriptions not only of the crows but of the scientists at work will give students plenty to ponder."
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As a fan of this series, I couldn't have been more thrilled when I learned several years ago that Pamela S. Turner, author of The Frog Scientist--the book that originally made me fall in love with this series--was working on a book about crows, one of my favorite creatures. I stalked the sciencemeetsadventure.com blog, emailed encouraging words to the author, and pre-ordered my copy as soon as I could. Despite that tremendous build-up, amazingly, I was not at all disappointed.
Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird will be a valuable resource as I teach 10-year-olds about inquiry and experimentation, asking rich questions, designing experiments, and brain science. I will also use it as a mentor text as we learn about reading and writing informational text. It provides compelling examples of making the topic relatable by focusing on individual cases, using a sequential structure, descriptive writing, and attention-grabbing chapter/section titles. As with all Scientists in the Field books, the photography and the non-fiction text features are unparalleled. Each book is an in-depth study of specialized research, miraculously made appealing enough to engage both 10-14 year-olds and their teachers. Don't miss Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird.
A fascinating read about how these crows make and use tools to find dinner, though this is chock full of all sorts of theories and guesses, and may be dated in a few years depending on how the research goes. (Kids will need to be discerning readers to pick out theory from established fact, though Turner is usually good about saying things like "scientists think..." or "probably...," still sometimes they are very subtle clues.) Very readable. Turner employs humor in her writing in this book, moreso than in some of her previous Science in the Field books. And as always, the photographs are spectacular.