Incredible book celebrates memory of extinct birds

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, October 3, 2014 2:59pm
  • Life

Periodically I rummage through my new-book box. I find books that I forgot were there, books that are better inside than the covers predict, books that delight and educate, books that touch me through photographs, and only occasionally a book that disappoints.

This time the gem is “Ghosts of Gone Birds: Resurrecting Lost Species through Art” (Bloomsbury). Chris Aldhous invited contemporary artists (including writers and a sound artist) to select an extinct species and put their creativity to work. The result was four exhibitions and this incredible book. Aldhous describes the group as a “creative army for conservation.”

Other books about extinct species have gone before but “Ghosts” leads the way for a collective magic that evokes sadness and hope, smiles and a sense of loss but also gratitude for all birds, future and past, that can inspire and soothe us.

“Ghosts” could have been a 265-page funeral. Instead it is a book of spirit of birds that are gone. The artists deliver page after page of the unexpected.

Once this book is in your hands, you’ll never let it go.

Also in the book box:

“The Homing Instinct: Meaning &Mystery in Animal Migration” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Tens of millions of birds and other animals are on the move this fall, heading south or north, flying, walking, slithering, swimming, hitching a ride and, if they are human, migrating on wheels or in planes.

The author of “Life Everlasting,” Bernd Heinrich, again turns his curiosity into answers. Migration is more than magnetic lines, sheer instinct or visual imprinting, it’s also a matter of home and its creation and defense, reproduction and offspring-raising.

“Harry the Woodpecker’s Search for a Home” (Orange Spot Publishing). Joy and Craig Johnson’s illustrated story focuses on a pair of woodpeckers creating a nest cavity only to discover that their tree is part of a clearing for houses. Follow Harry and Harriet as they rise to the challenge.

Dawn Publications has always been a favorite of mine for young children’s books. The story stays true to form with “On Kiki’s Reef,” “The Swamp Where Gator Hides,” and “Where do the Animals go When It Rains?”

They are beautifully illustrated, concise, educational and usually have teaching tips for the adults doing the reading.

“A Field Guide to Edible Fruits and Berries of the Pacific Northwest” (Harbour Publishing) is the right size to toss into your day pack or glove compartment, an on-demand colorful accordion-fold guide to the difference between berries. There’s also information related to berry-preparation.

“Encounters in Avalanche Country: A History of Survival in the Mountain West, 1820-1920” (University of Washington). Fur trappers, prospectors, railroad workers and train riders, pioneers, miners and skiing mailmen had something in common: avalanches. Diana Di Stefano traces the challenges, survival skills and community responses to the disasters.

She also covers a lawsuit against the Great Northern Railway Company that arose from the 1910 Wellington avalanche near Stevens Pass that killed 96 people.

“Turning Down the Sound: Travel Escapes in Washington’s Small Towns” (Oregon State University Press). Forget Seattle and Bellingham, Tacoma and Spokane. Let Foster Church guide you this fall to small towns such as Concrete, Conconully, Prosser, Odessa and Quincy.

Each four- to six-page “chapter” offers directions, the basics, and the local idiosyncrasies that set the towns apart from their more populated brethren.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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