Title: Crow Smarts, Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird
Author: Pamela S. Turner
Photographs by: Andy Comins
Art by: Guido de Filippo
Publisher: HMH, 2016
72 pages, nonfiction
Themes. Crows, intelligence, tool use
Munin has a problem.
A human has shooed him into a large cage that is criss-crossed with perches made from tree branches. A string hangs from one of these perches. On the other end of the string dangling in mid air, is a short stick. The short stick can’t be reached by leaning down from the perch. And it’s too high up to reach from the ground.
In Crow Smarts the reader is transported to the beautiful Pacific Island of New Caledonia to meet some crows with extraordinary smarts. The book starts with Munin a wild crow who has been brought into captivity and is facing some tests that would make a 2nd grader scratch his head. Little Feather, another wild crow, is trying to learn how to use tools that will help him survive back in the wild. Another crow, Seashell Collector is manifesting the characteristics of what you and I would call having a hobby.
In a lighthearted and easy prose the science behind these experiments, the extraordinary exploits these crows perform and the individual personalities are shared. The text is enhanced through stunning wildlife photography and illustrations of the facts and science accessible to eager upper elementary and middle school students.
Why I like this book:
Four things I especially liked about this book are: the humor and clarity of text that makes the science accessible to all curious readers; the fact the crows are all released back into the wild at the end; the names and personalities of each crow; and the insights into the Pacific island culture especially their attitude towards the crows.
The parallels with human and/or chimp abilities reinforce the truly astonishing skills and thought these crows are capable of. If you weren’t a crow fan before reading this, I am convinced you will be afterwards.
Anyone who enjoyed what Jane Goodall did among the chimps of East Africa will enjoy reading about the crows of new Caledonia!
A tid bit for you: humans and the crows of New Caledonia are the only species that show signs of strong “handedness” or “laterality” when using tools.
- The book includes an extensive bibliography for further research, several pages of Q & A with the author and some website suggestions.
- Here’s are some websites for budding young ornithologist http://www.birdsleuth.org/teaching-bird-id/ http://www.kidsolr.com/science/page19.html
- Top ten apps for birding with kids : http://www.birdsleuth.org/top-10-apps-for-birding/
- Nat Geo has looked at these New Caledonian crows too: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/07/24/animals-crows-smarts-intelligence-science-minds/
- How to draw cartoon crows and ravens http://www.drawinghowtodraw.com/stepbystepdrawinglessons/2011/04/how-to-draw-cartoon-crows-and-ravens-with-simple-steps-cartooning-lesson/
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.