Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nonfiction That Makes the Grade: The Bald Eagle by Elaine Landau

If you want to soar through the facts on that raptor of the republic, Elaine Landau's brand-new entry in the high-flying True Books series, The Bald Eagle (True Books), has a bird's-eye view of all the information needed in its succinct 48-page format.

Landau leads off with a review of the eagle's historic popularity as an icon of power from the Roman Empire to the Nigerian republic. She then turns to the natural history of our national symbol and its cousins, covering the largest (the South American harpy eagle) to the smallest (the booted eagle), their predatory equipment (super vision, wingspans of up to eight feet, powerful talons and hooked beaks), their nesting habits, and the strange fact that bald eagle females are much larger than their mates.

Despite its long history as a symbol of power, the eagle had a few rivals for the job of national icon--Benjamin Franklin's preference for the wild turkey, not to mention John Adams' fondness for Greek hero Hercules, for example. Still, the bald eagle's good looks seems to have carried the day, as a committee headed by Charles Thomson designed the first Great Seal picturing the now well-known rampant eagle, clutching 13 arrows and an olive branch, with the E Pluribus Unum banner in his beak.

Landau closes with a chapter tracing the perils of our national predator, including a timeline of the bird's endangerment and near extinction during the 20th century and his recent return to rule the skies. Closing with a chapter on other famous uses of the eagle's image--on coins, the U.S. Navy Seal, and the best-known lunar landing craft, as in "The Eagle has landed," Landau finishes with A "True Statistics" summary, backed up by a bibliography of books, web sites, organizations, places to visit, a short glossary of terms, and an index.

At an Accelerated Reader grade level of 4.7, The Bald Eagle (True Books) soars with short and solid nonfiction for the elementary reader.

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