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The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow
Cover of The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow
The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow
"The content encourages us to reflect upon and evaluate the relationship between human beings and animals. This book leaves us with admiration for this feisty bird and hope for our world." —...
"The content encourages us to reflect upon and evaluate the relationship between human beings and animals. This book leaves us with admiration for this feisty bird and hope for our world." —...
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  • "The content encourages us to reflect upon and evaluate the relationship between human beings and animals. This book leaves us with admiration for this feisty bird and hope for our world." — Friends Journal

    Behold the most despised bird in human history!

    So begins Jan Thornhill's riveting, beautifully illustrated story of the House Sparrow. She traces the history of this perky little bird, one of the most adaptable creatures on Earth, from its beginnings in the Middle East to its spread with the growth of agriculture into India, North Africa and Europe. Everywhere the House Sparrow went, it competed with humans for grain, becoming such a pest that in some places "sparrow catcher" became an actual job and bounties were paid to those who got rid of it.

    But not everyone hated the House Sparrow, and in 1852, fifty pairs were released in New York City. In no time at all, the bird had spread from coast to coast. Then suddenly, at the turn of the century, as cars took over from horses and there was less grain to be found, its numbers began to decline. As our homes, gardens, cities and farmland have changed, providing fewer nesting and feeding opportunities, the House Sparrow's numbers have begun to decline again — though in England and Holland this decline appears to be slowing. Perhaps this clever little bird is simply adapting once more.

    This fascinating book includes the life history of the House Sparrow and descriptions of how the Ancient Egyptians fed it to the animals they later mummified, how it traveled to Great Britain as a stowaway on ships carrying Roman soldiers, and how its cousin, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, was almost eradicated in China when Mao declared war on it. A wealth of back matter material is also supplied.

    Key Text Features
    map
    glossary
    references
    resources
    further information

    Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.3
    Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.7
    Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3
    Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3
    Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2
    Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

About the Author-

  • JAN THORNHILL is an author and illustrator who brings her fascination with the natural world to her books for children. They include The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award finalist); I Found a Dead Bird (National Parenting Publications Gold Award, Norma Fleck Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award); The Wildlife 123 (UNICEF-Ezra Jack Keats International Award, Governor General's Award finalist) and The Wildlife ABC (Governor General's Award finalist). Jan has also won the Vicky Metcalf Award. She spends her spare time in the woods obsessively collecting and cataloging wild mushrooms and slime molds. She lives near Havelock, Ontario.

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2018

    Gr 3-6-Thornhill returns to questions on adaptation, conservation, and extinction, all raised in her 2016 award-winning title The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, but here posed in a different light-one of triumph. The narrative pieces together the House Sparrow's long history, from around 12,000 years ago to the present day, to better understand how a creature so reviled still managed to adapt and survive in great numbers. Thornhill's precision in describing how the petite bird could be ruthlessly exterminated by people and, at the same time, be adored by them, her careful prodding of the dissonance between these two realities, is truly absorbing. What emerges is a complex, dark comedy of human behavior and a tenacious avian species, one with very real-and, as Thornhill argues, often ignored-consequences. Regarding their decline in North America, Thornhill asks: "What if the culprit is something that is as unhealthy for humans as it is for the House Sparrow?" The message is subtle but clear: our fates are intertwined. Thornhill's masterly digital art invites repeated viewing. There is death (and a bit of gore) as well as quiet, almost tender scenes, such as a small flock eating alongside cows on a train. The palette of rich greens, reds, and browns affirm the theme of vitality-and a story not yet finished. VERDICT An exceptional selection for nonfiction collections; use it to deepen discussions on the relationship among humans, animals, and the environment.-Della Farrell, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 15, 2018
    An examination of perhaps "the most despised bird in human history!"In this masterfully conceived and beautifully illustrated picture book, Thornhill examines a bird whose history is in some ways the opposite of her previous bird study, The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (2016). She examines ways in which the house sparrow's ancestors adapted to changing human environments, starting with early agriculture in the Middle East through construction of cities that provided "nesting cavities in buildings, plenty of grain, and insects to feed its hatchlings." Although hunted as a pest, sparrows persisted and spread all over the world. They stowed away to Britain in Roman ships and were eventually carried to New York City and across the United States by migrants, living on grain used for livestock. The population fell dramatically when horse transportation declined and even more in recent years when food supply and nesting sites were drastically reduced due to modern building methods. Thornhill advocates careful analysis of this decline, given the house sparrow's unique ability to adapt to a fast-changing environment. She places her text against meticulously painted double-page spreads that depict the birds piled up for pies in an old Dutch kitchen, in a boxcar with cattle heading west, and succumbing to Mao's anti-sparrow campaign.Superbly designed nonfiction with a powerful environmental message. (map, glossary, list of adaptive species, resources, references) (Informational picture book. 9-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from May 1, 2018
    Grades 2-5 *Starred Review* Pigeons, breathe a sigh of relief because for once the despised bird being discussed is the common House Sparrow. This bouncy brown ball of feathers will be familiar to all readers, so much so that they've probably given it very little thought. In a rather ingenious move, Thornhill (The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, 2016) uses this unassuming figure as an entry point to discuss adaptation, invasive species, and humanity's role in shaping the environment. The history of the House Sparrow is closely tied to that of human civilization, and Thornhill consistently shows readers the link between this grain-loving bird's evolution and global migration with the spread of agriculture. Highly adaptable and fecund, House Sparrow populations quickly boomed alongside human settlements, starting in the Middle East and eventually spreading to every continent but Antarctica. This also meant that these chirpy fellows soon became a nuisance, particularly to farmers faced with decimated crops. Painting-like digital illustrations reveal various cultures on which House Sparrows left their mark, from their appearance as Egyptian hieroglyphs to children's jobs as sparrow catchers in England. As pesky as sparrows can be, Thornhill highlights their important role in insect control and as indicators of environmental health. Her engaging and informative avian history bestows worth upon the sparrow's feathery back, recasting it from villain to valuable ally.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books In her engrossing narrative . . . Thornhill revels in the irony of the sparrows' "triumph," even as she comments on complexities that add dimension to the story and point toward their uncertain future.

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    Groundwood Books Ltd
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