Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa J. Amstutz is a sweet story about a boy and his mother carrying on a tradition that began more than 100 years ago -- the Christmas Bird Count. But this year is different. Jay is missing his Gramps and hopes to find his favorite bird, a dove.
Lisa's crisp narrative leads the reader through crunchy snow to find chickadees, a red-bellied woodpecker and other birds. Like a real birding walk we hear the blue jay before we see it, and search the page for the red-bellied woodpecker.
Maria Luisa Di Gravio's illustrations reflect the softness of a winter's morning-- muted greys, bright whites, and warmly bundled birders. Although the birds are stylized, they are easily identifiable and will help young readers add new species to their life lists.
As Jay and his mother wander the woods, we learn about the Christmas Bird Count and why it is so important. The back matter elaborates on the history of the yearly event and shares a two-page bird count checklist. I especially appreciate the invitation to join the Bird Count and websites for kids to access.
As a writer I admire the clean narrative. Lisa fills her story with sounds of crunching snow, hammering of the woodpecker and calls of flying geese. The language sings with words like skitter, raggedy, waggle and prickle, which will make it a fun read-aloud. Lisa is also a pro at weaving facts into a fictional story line without bogging down the pace or emotion of a story with heart.
Finding a Dove for Gramps will look lovely under the Christmas tree, and is sure to turn any child into an avid birder.