189 Canaries

Eerdmans. Sept. 2021. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855749.
Gr 1-3–Lush illustrations and text full of sensory descriptions make this narrative nonfiction story of how canaries came to America a real pleasure to read and share with young readers. The story follows the journey of one canary from its mountain home in the Harz Mountains in Austria, where it accompanies silver miners during the day and sings its lovely tunes to a family at night. A bird dealer comes to take the canary, along with 188 others (189 referring to the number of small bird cages that will fit in layers of a large backpack) on a long journey on foot over the mountains, then to a train, then a ship headed across the Atlantic, and finally to a pet store in New York City, where the bird meets its new human family. Back matter includes a brief history of the birds, originally from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, a picture of the many varieties of the bird, as well as a map showing the route of the journey from Europe to North America. Human characters default to white; the vast majority of the illustrations depict the birds and imaginative drawings of the canary, the surroundings, and even the birdsong.
VERDICT A delightful story of a little-known piece of history, with the added bonus of a fun math connection for students studying multiplication.

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