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Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. Winner) Hardcover – September 15, 2013
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*Starred Review* Few nonfiction picture books attempt this level of ambition, and even fewer succeed. Thankfully, Roth and Trumbore’s first instinct ends up being the best one: To tell the story of the Puerto Rican parrot you must also tell the story of Puerto Ricans. The earliest human inhabitant of the island originally known as Boriquén arrived by boat around 5,000 BCE. They found a land replete with wildlife, including the brightly colored parrots that built nests in the trees. Watershed moments in Puerto Rican history—including first contact with Europeans in 1493, the arrival of slaves from Africa, and the Spanish-American War—parallel the sharp decline in the parrots’ population, which numbered only 24 by the 1960s. That’s when collaborative efforts of the Puerto Rican and American governments to protect the parrots began, as scientists taught the birds basic social behaviors, how to recognize enemies, and how to raise their young. Roth’s stunning artwork—fluttery, textural collages of fabric and paper with a three-dimensional quality—complement the high-interest narrative and are arranged vertically across dual pages to make the most of the tall trees and the related human actions taking place below. A triumphant reminder of the inescapable connection between people’s actions and the animals in the wild. Grades 2-5. --Erin Anderson
Parrots thrived in Puerto Rico long before the first human settlers arrived some 5,000 years ago; by 1975, only 13 of the birds were still living in the wild. Roth and Trumbore follow The Mangrove Tree with another story of ecological revitalization, explaining the threats the parrots faced over the centuries, including invasive species and deforestation. The authors demonstrate how the parrots survival was entwined with Puerto Rico s very history (bees and rats from Spanish settlers ships wreaked havoc on the birds nests) before detailing ongoing efforts to rebuild their numbers. The book itself is oriented vertically, calendar-style, amplifying its sense of height and allowing for dramatic paper and fabric collages that show the vivid blue-and-green parrots soaring over the island. In an especially lovely scene, a towering waterfall of crinkled strips of white paper cascades over a fibrous backdrop of rocks in Puerto Rico s El Yunque rainforest. An extensive afterword describes the species recovery and includes more than a dozen photographs. A thoughtful and thorough examination of the ways human action can both help and harm animal populations. --Publishers Weekly, starred review
Few nonfiction picture books attempt this level of ambition, and even fewer succeed. . . . Roth s stunning artwork fluttery, textural collages of fabric and paper with a three-dimensional quality compliment the high-interest narrative and are arranged vertically across dual pages to make the most of the tall trees and the related human actions taking place below. A triumphant reminder of the inescapable connection between people s actions and the animals in the wild. --Booklist, starred review
Before humans arrived on the island, parrots numbered in the hundred of thousands. By 1967, only 24 birds remained. Since then, scientists in the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program (PRPRP) have established aviaries to raise the birds in captivity and release them in the wild. Using a vertical page orientation, Roth has plenty of space for detailed collages that depict the parrots lives and struggles above human activities that have altered the island s ecosystem over the centuries. Taínos, Spanish explorers and settlers, African slaves, and others hunted parrots for food, cut down nesting places, and introduced animals that ate their eggs. After the United States took control, deforestation continued. Some military history and political questions such as the debate about Puerto Rico s commonwealth status slow the narrative. When the focus shifts to the strategies, setbacks, and successes of the PRPRP, the story soars. From constructing nesting boxes to training captive-bred birds how to avoid hawks, the program is slowly rebuilding the parrot population. After the main story, several pages of photos accompany further explanations of the group s work. In addition to their list of sources, the authors supply a detailed time line of events. Like this team s The Mangrove Tree (Lee & Low, 2011), this title offers an engaging and hopeful look at environmental restoration. --School Library Journal, starred review
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The wonderful paper and fabric collages of parrots flying above the island and through the trees are cleverly created and photographed to make scenes that demand your attention. Children and adults will want to spend time admiring the multiple layers and colors to see myriad objects with hidden bits and pieces in each collage. Each scene has depth or height that draws the reader down from the sky or up to the jungle canopy or through a village market. I marveled at the simple tools Roth used to create complex and remarkably colorful pictures for this book.
Beyond the images, Roth and Cindy Trumbore researched and wrote a turbulent and sometimes sad history lesson in a compact 44 pages. While telling the story of the island, the women have detailed how its hurricanes, settlement and development have influenced the population of the beautiful parrots that call it home. “By 1967, only twenty-four parrots lived in El Yunque.”
Roth and Trumbore show how governments worked together and even used the “cousin” of the Puerto Rican parrot, the Hispaniolan parrot, to help raise chicks to bring the population up. The book tells how scientists learned what kind of nest boxes were best for the parrots and how the scientists gathered eggs to raise the chicks in an aviary where they were protected from harm.
This success story of bringing the Puerto Rican parrot back from the edge of extinction offers a wonderful way to introduce children to the plight of the wild populations of endangered species. It also offers a wonderful way to show how aviculture and the use of science can help save a wild population of an endangered species.
If any of the words in this review looked daunting for reading aloud to a child, don’t worry. Roth and Trumbore wisely included an extra educational tool: On pages with foreign-language words, they included a pronunciation guide for the words at the bottom of the page. For instance, the earliest settlers of Puerto Rico called the island Boriquen, which is pronounced boh-ree-KEN and named the parrots iguaca, which is pronounced ih-GWAH-kah. There are well thought out definitions and explanations throughout the book to help children understand the history of the island and the daring comeback story of the iguaca.
The last few pages include full-color photographs and information that can be used in a classroom setting to teach about the conservation program. I can highly recommend this book.