Wednesday, May 11, 2022

What Birds Teach Us

Picture Book: Ruby’s Birds

Author: Mya Thompson

Illustrator: Claudia Davila

Summary: This beautiful book is from the point of view of Ruby, a girl who is 6 or so. She is about to discover the wild side of NYC! Her neighbor, Eva, offers to take Ruby to the park. Ruby assumes they are going to her play place in Central Park, but instead they are going into the forest there. On their way they sing (Ruby loves to sing – this is important!). She’s not sure what to do when they sit quietly so she bursts into song again. 

Eva gets a bit upset because she had just spied a golden-winged warbler, a bird species that Eva saw often in her home country of Costa Rica. Eva explains that Central Park is an excellent place to birdwatch. The birdwatching continues, more quietly. They don't again see the warbler that day, but Eva insists that Ruby now knows what to do to spy another one: Pay attention, move carefully, and be quiet. Ruby is already hooked! She dreams of birds after singing herself to sleep. She teaches her family about birds and birdwatching. Birdwatching becomes her very own practice.

Hanna’s Comments: Birdwatching is a lot like prayer. With a particular orientation, it can be a contemplative practice that calms, grounds, and leads us to praise. In recent years, I have discovered the contemplative and emotionally grounding aspects of birdwatching. The many birds in my feeders have helped me tremendously during the anxious days of the pandemic! I even laugh aloud sometime! Truly they are some of God's most extraordinary gifts. They are delightful to watch, but there can also be stark reminders of wild living that I don’t like to see, like violence, flying into windows & doors, and deaths that sometimes occur. Although such experiences are harder to witness, I know they are a part of creation so they should not be avoided topics of conversation should children mention them.

Because birds, like Ruby, sing so much, spend some time talking about the worship aspects of singing, particularly with concepts such as praise, awe, and gratitude. Ask children a wonder question about why they think birds sing. 

This book has an amazing number of resources in the back! First, the context of the story and some info. about warbler migration are given. Next you’ll find information about 2 key birds in the story. There is a chart listing the 14 bird species found in the illustrations. Last you have Ruby's Tips for Taking a Nature Walk. This page could be used independently on a guided nature walk later. 

Jesus tells us not to worry and references sparrows in Matthew 6:26. The concept of worrying is so important now thanks to the pandemic that I plan to do a PBT post soon that will feature several books about worrying. If you want to know now which books I plan to feature, contact me.

Original Publisher: Scholastic & The Cornell Lab Publishing Group (It is through Cornell that much excellent bird research is funded!)

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: You may think of a couple of commonly known biblical references to birds such as, “Look at the birds of the air, they neither sew nor reap...” (Matthew 6:26) and Jesus' longing to gather his people like a hen gathers her chicks (Matthew 23:37), but there are many scriptures that reference birds! A general search engine will help you find more. Here's one I just found: Ask the birds of the sky and they will tell you. (Job 12:7)

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: I listed this book along with several others about birds in my Trinity Treasures Preschool Curriculum. It’s 3 years of lessons based on the lectionary. Each lesson features a list of recommended picture books. This book is for the lesson in Year B. The theme is God’s Goodness. God’s gifts of birds, flowers, and fruit are the focus. They are all mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:8-13.

PBT Applications: A couple of weeks ago I featured a book about listening. Today's book (and any book about birdwatching or nature walks) would connect with the spiritual practice of listening. However, you can also celebrate God’s diverse plan for our world by reading this book and focusing on the incredible diversity of birds in the world. I suspect you could easily create a game or art project that celebrated God’s feathered gifts. For adults or teens, ask them to tell you a parable or personal story in which a bird's presence or behavior was an important lesson.

Links to other PBT books about birds: 

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Bear and Bird

Sing...Sing a Song!


Washing the Willow Tree Loon


Mama Outside, Mama Inside

The Birds of Bethlehem

Is This Panama?

Baby Wren and the Great Gift

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