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Cover image for The tragic tale of the great auk
Format:
Title:
The tragic tale of the great auk
ISBN:
9781554988655
Publication:
Toronto ; Berkeley : Groundwood Books : House of Anansi Press, [2016]
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations, color map ; 29 cm
Contents:
For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive. In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that "weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen's waist." Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn't fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn't walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time ... until humans became seafarers. Great Auks were pursued first by Vikings, then by Inuit, Beothuk and finally European hunters. Their numbers rapidly dwindled. They became collectors' items -- their skins were stuffed for museums, to be displayed along with their beautiful eggs. (There are some amazing stories about these stuffed auks -- one was stolen from a German museum during WWII by Russian soldiers; another was flown to Iceland and given a red-carpet welcome at the airport.).
Summary:
For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive. In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that "weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen's waist." Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn't fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn't walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time ... until humans became seafarers. Great Auks were pursued first by Vikings, then by Inuit, Beothuk and finally European hunters. Their numbers rapidly dwindled. They became collectors' items--their skins were stuffed for museums, to be displayed along with their beautiful eggs. (There are some amazing stories about these stuffed auks--one was stolen from a German museum during WWII by Russian soldiers; another was flown to Iceland and given a red-carpet welcome at the airport.).-- Source other than the Library of Congress.
Reading Level:
Elementary Grade.

1130 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 6.5.

Reading Counts! 9.7.

Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.5 1.0 183707.
Electronic Access:
null http://www.cornerstonesofscience.org/
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Status
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598.3 THORNHILL JR O/S
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J 598.3 THORNHILL
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598.33 THORNHILL
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J 598.33 Thornhill 2016
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J 598.3 Thornhill
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On Order

Summary

Summary

For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive.

In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that "weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen's waist." Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn't fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn't walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time ... until humans became seafarers.

Great Auks were pursued first by Vikings, then by Inuit, Beothuk and finally European hunters. Their numbers rapidly dwindled. They became collectors' items -- their skins were stuffed for museums, to be displayed along with their beautiful eggs. (There are some amazing stories about these stuffed auks -- one was stolen from a German museum during WWII by Russian soldiers; another was flown to Iceland and given a red-carpet welcome at the airport.)

Although undeniably tragic, the final demise of the Great Auk led to the birth of the conservation movement. Laws were eventually passed to prevent the killing of birds during the nesting season, and similar laws were later extended to other wildlife species.


Author Notes

Jan Thornhill is an author and illustrator who brings her fascination with the natural world to her books for children. They include The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award finalist); I Found a Dead Bird (National Parenting Publications Gold Award, Norma Fleck Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award); The Wildlife 123 (UNICEF-Ezra Jack Keats International Award, Governor General's Award finalist) and The Wildlife ABC (Governor General's Award finalist). Jan has also won the Vicky Metcalf Award. She spends her spare time in the woods obsessively collecting and cataloging wild mushrooms and slime molds. She lives near Havelock, Ontario.


Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-The auk was a northern penguin that lived and thrived in the cold waters of the Atlantic. This great bird "weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a three-year-old," but it had one flaw: the bird had tiny wings that were excellent for water but terrible for flying. Though it was obviously humans who pushed the auk to extinction, the how and why make this a thrilling scientific page-turner. Stunning digitally created illustrations surround the text. The images have an etched and naturalistic quality that adds beauty and an emotional connection to the story of a long-extinct animal. Prose and science come together to highlight the loss of a species and then connect this extinction with modern conservation efforts. The narrative finishes with detailed back matter that includes bird comparisons and a list of extinct animals. VERDICT An excellent addition to a library or classroom collection for read-alouds and science lessons.-Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Horn Book Review

This picture book describes how the features, characteristics, and circumstances of the great auk contributed to its eventual extinction in 1844. A lengthy, casual-toned text spans the penguin-like bird's interactions with northern peoples, including prehistoric humans, Vikings, Inuit, and European specimen-collectors. The illustrations, with rocky shorelines haunted by ghostlike, see-through auks, help convey the fragility of biodiversity. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

Hundreds of thousands of great auks once swam in cold northern waters, but these birds have all disappeared owing to a tragic intersection of climate change and human activities.Thornhill starts with an admirable depiction of this remarkable bird, known even to prehistoric cave painters. "Behold the Great Auk! The Gejrfugl! The northern penguin!" she begins. A tall black-and-white bird stands proudly on a rock on the facing page, looking across at a flock on another rocky island, outlined in white like ghosts. Her illustrations, done with stylus and tablet, have the look of acrylic paintings, and they are striking, with text sitting directly on the double-page illustrations. She tells this sad story smoothly and relatively gently while showing readers flocks of identifiable seabirds, schools of fish, small boats (a Viking ship, an Inuit kayak) on rough seas, the back of a fox looking down on an inaccessible island roost, a chick being fed, collections of eggs, and stuffed birds in a 19th-century museum. Many illustrations pull back to show the landscape, but some are close-upsmost effectively, a broken egg in front of the boots of the Icelandic fishermen who strangled the last two auks remaining in the world. She concludes with the legacy of this loss, part of the impetus for the bird conservation movement. A sobering, beautifully presented extinction story. (map, glossary, list of extinct species, resources, references) (Nonfiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The last great auk was killed in the nineteenth century, but as this charmingly illustrated title proves, the bulky, flightless bird is far from forgotten. Thornhill begins by describing the features of the great auk that made it particularly susceptible to human predation. Since it evolved facing few land-borne predators, its stubby wings, nearly useless feet, and habit of laying eggs one at a time on bare rock were never much of a problem, but when humans arrived on the scene, with big appetites for the fatty birds and their golden-yolked eggs, the wobbly avians, so enfeebled on land, scarcely had a chance. In articulate, engaging, and even occasionally suspenseful prose, Thornhill compellingly explains the reasons the great auk is no more, gracefully combining elements of evolution, ecology, human technological advancement, and cultural trends, like the growing interest in taxidermy, while planting startling tidbits of information on every page. Her illustrations provide visual context as much as atmosphere, particularly as the stout black-and-white birds, so plentiful on rock ledges at the beginning of the book, slowly dwindle until, at the end, they're mere ghostly white outlines among flocks of nesting puffins. This vivid, fascinating story emphasizes not only the importance of conservation but also how deeply intertwined the human and animal worlds can be. Eye-opening and tragic, to be sure, but surprisingly hopeful all the same.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

A little owl forays out of the nest in this charming book with only four words on most pages. But pay attention: It's a reverso poem, the kind that reads the same forward and backward. Godwin, a co-author of the Doll People novels, has the owl glimpse himself in a pond ("owl sees owl") before he, and the words, turn back. Dunlavey's ("The Dandelion's Tale") lovely art marries midnight blues and bright fall leaves, making this a rare nighttime adventure that's both restful and playful. FARAWAY FOX By Jolene Thompson. Illustrated by Justin K. Thompson. 32 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 3 to 7) What starts as a sad tale of a young fox wandering a newly built neighborhood, separated from his family by a highway, becomes an uplifting story of humans helping wildlife adapt to shrinking habitats. Turns out the "strange creatures" are digging a tunnel under the road to a wildlife preserve. There the fox and his kin joyfully reunite. The art is warm and modern, and an author's note explains efforts to build more such crossings in this country, welcome news for kids disturbed by roadkill. POND Written and illustrated by Jim LaMarche. 40 pp. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8) When Matt sees a spring bubbling out in a place called "the Pit," he tells his sister, Katie, and a friend, Pablo, "I think the Pit was once a pond!" They dam it up and haul away junk. Grown-ups help, but this is a story about kids who make something good happen. It's immensely satisfying to see them create a little paradise, with fish, wildlife, even a boat they fix. With soft acrylic and pencil art evoking an idyllic mood, LaMarche ("Albert") finds the shimmering hint of magic in the natural world. GIANT SQUID By Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 32 pp. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. $18.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8) We have fewer photos of giant squid - creatures that swim deep in our oceans - than of the surface of Mars, and this clever book renders their mysteries thrilling and creepy. How fast are they? Where are their babies born? The Caldecott medalist Rohmann's art reveals only bits of its subject until a stunning gatefold gives a fuller, if still tantalizingly incomplete, view. Fleming makes the beast's odd anatomy truly monstrous: its "bone-hard and parrot-like" beak, its eyeballs "big as soccer balls." THE TRAGIC TALE OF THE GREAT AUK Written and illustrated by Jan Thornhill. 46 pp. Groundwood/ House of Anansi. $18.95. (Middle grade; ages 8 to 11) Extinction stinks, as any dinosaur lover knows. But it's also complicated, and in the case of the great auk, humans are not entirely to blame. There's also the creature's flightless wings and clunky feet. Thornhill gracefully melds history and science, offering both detail and wit, as well as stirring illustrations that convey both the vast scale of oceans and the delicate patterns on an auk egg. There's even a happy ending of sorts as she shows how the auk's plight gave birth to modern conservation. ONLINE An expanded visual presentation of this week's column at nytimes.com/books.