“Parrots over Puerto Rico” Cindy Trumbore; Illustrated by Susan L. Roth

2013. Lee & Low Books. (Includes footnote-like punctuation guide, “Afterword,” photographs, “Important dates in the History of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican Parrots” and “Authors’ Sources.”)

ParrotsOverPuertoRicoLong before mankind “discovered” the island, Puerto Rico had millions of distinctive green parrots. Over time man’s greed, as well as natural predators, combined to decimate the island’s parrot population along with the trees they called home. By 1967 millions of parrots were gone, leaving only 24 wild parrots alive. As a result, they were officially classified as an endangered species. Sadly, despite their endangered classification, the numbers of Puerto Rican parrots continued to fall, dropping as low as thirteen (13) by 1975.

The history of Puerto Rico and its endangered parrot comes to life before the reader’s eyes through the use of beautifully colored and arranged paper/fabric collages. The cover sets the book’s tone with its bright and intricately arranged feathers and cloth wings, showcasing parrots flying free against Puerto Rico’s bright blue sky – unhindered by any impediments. No title, author or illustrator names stand in their way, as they soar towards their future.

This picture book for readers aged 8-11 will teach much about the Puerto Rican parrot’s battles to survive despite nature’s blows and man’s numerous conspiracies against them. The excellent work of scientists with The Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program (PRPRP) is heavily showcased, lending hope that the Puerto Rican parrot will grow in numbers and roam free once again over its ancestral homeland.

A unique twist to this well researched and cleverly illustrated picture book is the unique way in which the text is arranged. Instead of the usual “right to left” page turns, readers have to turn the book sideways and flip pages from bottom to top. Despite this unusual way of reading, I believe it will be a top contender for several awards this year, including the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award or perhaps even a Caldecott. Remember that you read it here first.

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