Two smart books to share about the Passenger Pigeon

In this, the 100th year since the Passenger Pigeon went extinct, we have an assignment for you, dear reader: Share the bird’s story with someone who isn’t a birder, who doesn’t know what the world lost.

Thanks to a couple of talented authors, the conversation doesn’t have to be a downer. You can start by saying, “Here, read this book. I think you’ll like it.”

One-Came-HomeOne to hand to pigeon-deprived friends is the award-winning One Came Home by Amy Timberlake. It’s set in a fictional town on the Wisconsin River in the summer of 1871, the year in which real-life Passenger Pigeons nested in over 850 square miles of Badger State forests — the largest nesting ever known.

The book is aimed at young readers, but, honestly, it’s just as enjoyable for those of us who aren’t so young. The pigeons make up the backdrop for a coming-of-age mystery. In a thrilling early chapter, the main character, 13-year-old Georgie, watches a river of pigeons flying through town, darkening the sky. (We’re looking forward to the stage play based on the book at Chicago’s Lifeline Theater beginning in February.)

A-Message-from-MarthaThe other book worth sharing is Mark Avery’s A Message from Martha. The author is a former conservation director of Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and one of his country’s better-known environmental advocates. In smart, fast-moving prose, he describes what is known and what isn’t about the species.

Avery speculates about what life in North America would be like if vast flocks of pigeons still roamed the skies. He imagines a speech that President Obama could give enumerating a new environmental ethic for the nation. And he puts into words what Martha, the last pigeon, might say today about what we did to her species and yet haven’t really learned from.

Everyone, not just birders, needs to hear this story.

A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today, by Mark Avery, Bloomsbury, 304 pages, hardcover, $22

One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake, Random House, 264 pages, paperback, $6.99

Publishers and authors:

If you’ve brought out a book that we should consider reviewing, send it here:

BirdWatching Magazine
Madavor Media, LLC.
25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 404
Braintree, MA 02184
[email protected]

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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