Are We There Yet? Is This Panama? A Migration Story by Jan Thornhill
WHEN SAMMY WOKE UP, HIS TOES WERE COLDER THAN THEY'D EVER BEEN BEFORE. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS STILL AUGUST, FROST TWINKLED AND SPARKLED ON EVERY LEAF OF HIS HOME NEAR THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
SAMMY SHIVERED, PARTLY BECAUSE HE WAS COLD AND PARTLY BECAUSE HE WAS EXCITED. IF IT WAS THIS COLD, IT MUST BE TIME FOR HIM TO MAKE HIS FIRST MIGRATION TO PANAMA.
Fledgling Sammy wakes with the nagging feeling he's supposed to be somewhere else. Maybe Panama, where all the Wilson warblers go to winter? But as he looks around and sees no one of his flock, he realizes that ship has sailed!
It's definitely catch-up time for Sammy. Ptarmigan is no help in the GPS department, pointing out that he's not an insect eater and plans to winter over with the help of his white feathers which make him invisible in the frost and snow. But a passing caribou, heading for the lichen-covered forest floors further south, offers an observation.
"I DON'T LIKE LICHENS." SAID SAMMY. "I LIKE INSECTS."
"THEN YOU'D BETTER KEEP GOING. I HAVEN'T SEEN AN INSECT ALL DAY!"
But where exactly is Panama? Sammy hitches a ride with some sandhill cranes headed toward Texas who show him the landmarks they use to find their way. Then Sammy meets up with hundreds of dragonflies flying south along the coast, but speedy Sammy soon leaves them behind. Finally Sammy meets up with a cousin, a redstart warbler.
"IS THIS PANAMA?" HE ASKS.
"DON'T I WISH!" TWITTERED THE REDSTART.
His cousin invites him along on a night flight and shows him how to fly by the stars, but when the flock flaps over the lights of a huge city, the novice Sammy gets confused and crash lands into the window of a skyscraper. He recovers quickly, but the warblers are gone and he has to take advice from a strange group of fellow travelers--monarch butterflies, humpback whales, and even a Hudsonian godwit on his way to Patagonia--all of them headed south but none of them exactly bound for Panama. But island-hopping across the Bahamas with a flock of strangers, he heads across a short stretch of ocean, and when they stop to look for food, Sammy feels so tired that, hungry as he is after three weeks on the wing, he hasn't the heart even to hop around. But then Sammy gets a funny feeling about this place.
SAMMY SUDDENLY FELT ALL QUIVERY INSIDE.
Sammy had finally found his home away from home, in Jan Thornhill's Is This Panama?: A Migration Story (OwlKids Books, 2013). Thornhill manages to build quite a bit of page-turning tension into her story of Sammy the solitary wanderer, but the main premise of the book is the wondrous ways of animal migration. In this autumn-centered concept book each animal encountered reveals his own migratory reason and destination as they try to help Sammy find his own. Illustrator Soyeon Kim's artwork is picture perfect, using glowing full color nature paintings, occasionally interspersed with monochromatic drawings, especially in the appealing illustration of the weary Sammy hopping a lift on a slightly out-of-the-way humpback, riding high on the whale's big head.
Appended are color-illustrated thumbnails of the various animals covered, with sepia-tones assorted warblers decorating the endpapers, a map of the warbler clans and Sammy's offbeat routes, and a detailed explanation of "How Animals Migrate," using the sun, stars, landmarks, magnetic fields, and sense of smell for further information and review, making this little book a dandy read-aloud and resource choice for units on animal migration, a story told from the viewpoint of a doughty little hero who does what has to be done and shares his life's journey with his readers. Booklist loves this primary concept book, saying, "Kim’s illustrations, a mix of line drawings, paintings, and cut paper collage, are full of movement, color, and texture, offering up wonderfully varied landscapes and scenes that suggest three dimensions. Together, the text and images help make sense of a few of nature’s curiosities. A truly educational journey."