Book Review: Our Amazing Birds

Title: Our Amazing Birds

Author:  Robert S. Lemmon

Date:1952

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: none, but click here to see it on Amazon

Length: 235 pages

Illustrations: black and white paintings by Don R. Eckelberry

Quote: “[T]his tiny creature, weighing but one tenth of an ounce, is at once the amazement and delight of everyone who knows and grows outdoor flowers, for it is the most bejeweled little living helicopter you can possibly imagine.”

Our Amazing Birds is a collection of 102 short (maximum of two pages) articles about 102 birds. There’s nothing wrong with it, as far as it goes; apart from a few belabored phrases and politically incorrect wisecracks, it’s an entertaining read. The reason why libraries are likely to have replaced it is simply that there are better bird books, with more complete facts and color pictures, on the market these days. If you want more “story” than Peterson’s, Sibley’s, or the Audubon Society field guides can offer, Janet Lembke’s Dangerous Birds is fresher than this book. Graeme Gibson’s Bedside Book of Birds mixes fact, artefact, fiction, and poetry, but it’s also a great read. Actually, Audubon’s Birds of America is still a pretty good read, as is William Dupuy’s Our Bird Friends and Foes.

Lemmon didn’t even offer readers the Latin names for the birds he selected to write about…which isn’t all bad, since some species’ names have been changed in the last fifty years. And, instead of following up on Audubon’s interesting observation about anhingas’ resemblance to loons and cormorants with some comments about their similarities to those species and also to geese, grebes, and herons, he wanders off into lame evolutionary remarks about anhingas being more like snakes…than swans are? Hello? Several species of large birds have snaky necks, but the specific evolutionary theory that found some snaky-necked birds somehow closer to snakes than others is no longer received as probable fact—if it ever was. However, apart from this lapse, Lemmon steered clear of speculation and sticks to observed facts—such as he had.

Several of my favorite birds aren’t even mentioned in Our Amazing Birds, but serious bird-nerds will probably enjoy the write-ups of the birds that are here. The pictures are worth studying. In no way is Our Amazing Birds a bad addition to a library. It’s just that there are better ones–and were, at the time.

And I’ve already sold the physical copy of this book. I wrote this review in 2009. Since nobody else seems to have reviewed Our Amazing Birds I see no reason to waste a good review. If you want some good, though not superb, bird pictures and stories, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the page. You could fit four copies of this book into the package I last used to ship books, and if you bought them from this web site the total cost would be $25. And if anybody buys this book from me, I will indeed write to the publisher and try to find out whether Lemmon is still alive and, if so, whether he wants $1 per copy for himself or wants to send it to a charity.

(Anhinga image from Bandini at www.morguefile.com/archive/display/148668 .)

anhinga

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