As families everywhere hunker down and shelter in place, it’s a true treat to read a story that involves a journey. When that journey is affected by a life-threatening hurricane, something arguably made more severe by climate change, I think this story is especially timely as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. I hope you enjoy some armchair traveling via today’s Perfect Picture Book!
Title: Numenia and the Hurricane: Inspired by a True Migration Story
Written & Illustrated By: Fiona Halliday
Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2020
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: migration, birds, hurricanes, separation, reunion, determination, rhyming
Three sisters born/ By arctic shore/ On bare, cold rock/ As spring winds roar.
Bandit-eyed,/ They slip unseen/ Through beckoning moors/ Of tangled green.
Hunting bugs in/ Thawing creeks./ Spearing, gobbling,/ Growing beaks.
Five weeks old,/ They’ve reached the sky!/ “Curlee, curlee,/ Curloo,” they cry.
A brave, young whimbrel migrates from the Arctic to the Caribbean, but when a hurricane separates her from her flock, she must persevere to reach her destination.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about whimbrels;
- Discover the routes of many migrating bird species across the western hemisphere;
- Discover more educational resources about birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology;
- Celebrate Earth Day 2020 with these kid-friendly activities;
- Watch the book trailer.
Why I Like this Book:
In gentle, rhyming text, Numenia and the Hurricane recounts the story of a young whimbrel, a small, Artic bird, from her birth through her first migration to the Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean. But as readers learn, this isn’t just any continent-spanning migration. Instead, Numenia and her flock encounter a hurricane. During the storm, the poor bird is separated from her family and the flock. How will she survive to complete her journey and reunite with her sisters? You’ll have to read this gorgeous picture book to find out! But rest assured, since it’s geared to young children, this story has a happy ending.
But before we reach that ending, readers are in for a treat with Halliday’s lyrical imagery, including two of my favorites: a “great stampede” of “ten thousand hissing raindrops”, and “storm-tossed birds like ragged ghosts”.
Halliday’s illustrations in soft tones of blues, golds, greens, ivory and gray drew me into this story. If only I could have joined Numenia at her final destination!
Numenia and the Hurricane is based on a true story, which Halliday shares in an Author’s Note, along with information about this fascinating species.
A Note about Craft:
A non-fiction picture book about Hope, the inspiration for Numenia, would have been an interesting story. But Halliday ups the stakes by including fictional elements, most especially the inclusion of Numenia’s sisters. What child isn’t interested in a creature who has not only lost her way, but also her family?
Fictionalizing this story also enables Halliday to anthropomorphize Numenia, again enabling children to more readily identify with her reactions to her problem and to learn from her hope and determination.
The use of rhyme quickens the pace, I think, which is perfect for a story about a bird, and it suits the lyrical images Halliday utilizes. And in the Author’s Note, we learn that the name, Numenia, is a derivation of Numenius phaeopus, the Latin name for whimbrels. What great attention to detail!
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!