Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Superlative Birds blog tour - 4.17.19

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Last year I had the pleasure in sharing Leslie Bulion's Leaf Litter Critters with you.  Check it out here.  Today, I get to share her latest:

Superlative Birds by Leslie Bulion
Superlative Birds
written by Leslie Bulion
illustrated by Robert Meganck
published by Peachtree Publishers

Dive into the most and least birds in this book as you discover all the superlatives in a bird's world.  Author Leslie Bulion and illustrator Robert Meganck have collaborated to create a book that will boggle you with information and leave you with many different reading and sharing opportunities as you go through this book.  From endpage to endpage, every reader will find fascinating information and crazy facts about the birds in the world around us!

Want to share it for the gorgeous poetry about these amazing creatures?
Every poem is different - a different bird, different superlative, and different poetic form.  I love how they each fit so perfectly for the bird it is describing.

Want to share it as you talk about superlatives during a language lesson?
Who doesn't love being the best or most or greatest at something?  Some fun superlatives in this book include "biggest loudmouth", "most gruesome prey collection", and "smelliest"!

Want to talk about creative ways author and illustrators keep readers entertained when putting a book together?
Don't miss the chickadee that finds its way on every layout, imparting extra information about the featured bird.  Sometimes the information is about the bird, sometimes it's about how the bird relates to other animals in our world.  A reader could just go through the book reading the quotes from the chickadee and learn a lot of information!
There is even one layout that uses a QR code.  It's a beautiful song that accompanies the poem.  More about that in a minute!

Want to share it during science when researching the world around us?
For every layout, Bulion has added a science note that gives further information about the bird.  While the accompanying poem may contain some facts, a reader will go to the science note to dive deeper into the bird's world.
I also liked how Bulion connected these creatures to the harm we are putting into our environment.  For every conscious move we make to keeping our Earth clean, we're adding to the longevity of these amazing creatures!

Does the information fascinate you?  Looking to see how an author includes even more information in their book?  Don't miss the backmatter!
The backmatter includes a glossary, notes about the poetic forms of each poem, where to find more information if you are interested in birding and acknowledgements from the author.

I hope you have lots of time to share this book, in fact I can see it being read over a spread of days.  As you can see, there is so much to take time and read and share.

Today author Leslie Buillon stopped by to answer some questions about Superlative Birds.  Thanks for stopping by, Leslie!

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit your lovely Book Nook, Mrs. Knott, and for your interesting questions about bird poetry process, bird book illustration and bird-related singing!

1.  I loved seeing all of the birds you selected, some were new to me and some were familiar!  How did you pick out the birds to include in the book?  And, how did you determine some of the superlatives?

            Ah yes, the dilemma—who’s in? who’s out?—is a BIG question. The short answer: the superlatives determined the birds!
            Superlative Birds explores signature characteristics we associate with birds such as song, flocking, beaks, and migration, to name just a few. So those characteristics helped me choose the superlatives. But even that’s tricky because you can come up with several different superlatives for each characteristic. Take beaks, for example: I could have included the bird with the longest beak, the heaviest beak, the smallest, the pointiest, or even the knobbiest beak!
            I curated the final assemblage of birds based on strong scientific evidence for their superlative “record,” with an eye to geographic and habitat variety. I wanted to present an informative, entertaining and worldwide cast of avian characters.
            You noticed that I also balanced familiar birds such as the turkey vulture with lesser-known birds like the Arctic tern and truly oddball birds such as the (phew) hoatzin. I hope readers enjoy meeting remarkable new feathered friends, as well as discovering surprising and remarkable attributes in birds they may already know.

2.  What was the writing process like for this book?  There must have been so much organization between the poem, the bird quotes, and the science information!

            Soooo much organization! My writing started with wide, foundational reading about birds. I added hands-on, experiential research, spending a week at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And in the life-long joy department, I’ve become an eager birder both here in Connecticut and in my travels. I record my birding data on Cornell’s ebird citizen science database.
            I created a preliminary list of birds and their superlatives, then did more in-depth research on each. I juggled and winnowed until I had the depth and breadth I wanted. As with all of my poetry collections, I thought a lot about how poetic form might relate to particular poem subjects.
            Once I began writing I was fairly methodical: poem, narrative science note, poetry note. Repeat, bird by bird (insert homage to Anne Lamott here). The process of distilling each complex science concept into the spare elegance of a poem raised many questions for me as I worked. I contacted researchers with specific questions and shared my poems and narrative notes. I wanted to be sure the nuance of each word and phrase conveyed accurate science. I planned a few ideas for back matter, then the manuscript went off to my editor, and eventually on to the art director and illustrator. Whew!

3.  The text and illustrations work together so seamlessly.  Were you able to communicate with illustrator Robert Meganck?

           Collaborating with Robert Meganck on Superlative Birds was a hoot (pun intended)! We worked on Leaf Litter Critters (Peachtree, 2018) together, too. When we’re in the thick of it we’ll email back and forth, several times in a day. You would not believe how much fine-tuning went into those chatty chickadee word bubbles!
            Robert always had another great idea to try, then—zip zip—my inbox would ding with his new work. His sketches and notes raised interesting questions that sent me back down the research rabbit hole, often highlighting something readers would want to know. The work is fun and challenging, whether we’re figuring out how to show relative sizes of our superlative birds or counting fingers and toes on frogs. On that note, I hope readers will stay tuned for Amphibian Acrobats coming March 1, 2020!

4.  I love the QR code for the song!  Tell us more about how that came to be.

      Ah, Mrs. Knott, you are giving me the opportunity for a proud mama moment here. I’m thrilled you asked about my daughter…er…I mean the QR code!
      Most of my collections include a poem based on the rhythm and rhyme pattern of a song. This is one of my favorite ways to model writing science poetry with students. But if I’ve chosen a song few readers will know, many could miss the fun of singing along. Enter the QR code. 
      “Arctic Terns the World ‘Round” is based on a beautiful old sea chantey, “White Wings.” When you scan the QR code you hear my daughter, Julia Hirsch, an actress and singer, who recorded the song for us in her home studio. Peachtree Publishing hosts the QR code link and—voila!—readers can listen and sing along.

More about author, Leslie Builon:  
Leslie Bulion has written poetry since the fourth grade. In addition to her other science poetry collections, Hey There, Stink Bug!; At the Sea Floor Café; Random Body Parts; and Leaf Litter Critters, Leslie has written several novels for young readers. She and her husband Rubin lice in Connecticut, where she often steps into her boots to meander through favorite birding spots, collecting data and photos along the way. Visit her website at

This is a book I have no doubt you'll want to add to your libraries.  Whether you're using it for a read aloud, research, a mentor text or just for a good read, it's a book to share!


  1. You probably know I shared this yesterday, and this time love your interview with Leslie Bulion, Michele and hearing about her collaborations with Robert Meganck. I didn't write about the QR code at all, and yet thought it was a terrific new feature! Thanks for a great post!

  2. Great interview. I enjoyed reading about her research process. This book looks like such an entertaining, educational, and creative read. I hope my library gets a copy soon.

  3. Such a fabulous book! Proud bird nerd & owner of a copy 🥰🦚