The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
For hundreds of thousands of years, Great Auks thrived. And then they were gone ...
For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive.
In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that "weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen's waist." Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn't fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn't walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time ... until humans became seafarers.
Great Auks were pursued first by Vikings, then by Inuit, Beothuk and finally European hunters. Their numbers rapidly dwindled. They became collectors' items -- their skins were stuffed for museums, to be displayed along with their beautiful eggs. (There are some amazing stories about these stuffed auks -- one was stolen from a German museum during WWII by Russian soldiers; another was flown to Iceland and given a red-carpet welcome at the airport.)
Although undeniably tragic, the final demise of the Great Auk led to the birth of the conservation movement. Laws were eventually passed to prevent the killing of birds during the nesting season, and similar laws were later extended to other wildlife species.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
ALA Notable Children's Books
Booklist Editors' Choice
SLJ's Best of 2016
A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the YearBR>"A sobering, beautifully presented extinction story." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review "This vivid, fascinating story emphasizes not only the importance of conservation but also how deeply intertwined the human and animal worlds can be. Eye-opening and tragic, to be sure, but surprisingly hopeful all the same." -- Booklist, starred review "The images have an etched and naturalistic quality that adds beauty and an emotional connection to the story of a long-extinct animal. Prose and science come together to highlight the loss of a species and then connect this extinction with modern conservation efforts." School Library Journal, starred review "Thornhill's approach to this historical event is so advanced it's simple: she tells the tale ... And what a tale it is." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review "Thornhill gracefully melds history and science, offering both detail and wit, as well as stirring illustrations that convey both the vast scale of oceans and the delicate patterns of an auk egg." -- New York TimesBR>
"Accompanied by exquisitely rendered drawings . . . the text will enthrall and sadden readers, perhaps reminding them that when a species is gone, it has disappeared forever." -- International Literacy Association