Crow Smarts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Spread the love

crowTitle: 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

Ages: 8-12

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.


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.




This entry was posted in nonfiction, Perfect Picture Book Friday and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Crow Smarts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. What an interesting book and so smart to take it from the crows pov. (pun intended) The title and beautiful cover alone entice one to pick it up. Thanks for sharing Joanna. Enjoy your weekend.

  2. Andrea Mack says:

    I bet kids will love this one! Birds are smarter than most people give them credit for.

  3. Cathy Mealey says:

    The Scientist in the Field books are always fascinating. Can’t wait to read this one. Caw!

  4. I’ve been looking for this book, but am having trouble finding it. ‘Sounds like you won’t be surprised to hear it has been nominated for a Cybils Award. Thanks for the review. I’ll keep looking.

  5. I had no idea crows could be trained like parrots or other exotic birds. Having a budgie and a cockatiel, I’m quite interested in reading this book. Thanks for a great review!

  6. Patricia Nozell says:

    I love when I read about a new book that highlights a topic that I know nothing about, and haven’t even wondered about, and now want to learn more. With these wonderful photographs drawing readers in, I think this one will fly off library and classroom shelves.

  7. I learned a lot today. Didn’t realize how smart crows are and that they can be trained. I would enjoy reading this book! Sounds like it would be a winter with kids too. Great choice!

  8. Erik-TKRB says:

    What a unique book! I love that it has photographs instead of traditional illustrations!

  9. awesome book in an awesome series. I don’t usually think of the Scientists in the Field books as “picture books” as they’re definitely aimed at an older age group. But they have such wonderful stories and photos.

  10. I LOVED this one, Joanna! It really appealed to my inner bird nerd. Such fascinating creatures.

    I’m a huge fan of the Scientist in the Field series. I would have to agree with Sue–I see them more as MG NF.

  11. Joanna says:

    Yep, it isn’t really a picture book, I just snuck it in to PPBF! Great for the 8-12 age group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.