We have already come across the Puerto Rican amazon, or Puerto Rican parrot, during this #WorldKidLit Month, but today I want to discuss this beautiful animal more closely. Puerto Rico has a rich ecosystem, and the iguaca is one of its crown jewels. Parrots over Puerto Rico is a is a standout nonfiction picture book from which to learn about the Puerto Rican parrot, its role in the island’s culture and history, and the efforts to save the population from extinction.
Winner of the 2014 Americas Award and Sibert Medal, this book presents the history of Puerto Rico-from before the arrival of humans to the island to the 21st century- with a specific focus on its native parrot population. Once plentiful on the island, deforestation, human encroachment on its habitat, and industrialization all worked to decimate the population of Puerto Rican parrots to less than 15 animals by the 1970s.
Authors Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore walk the reader through the developments that led to the critical endangerment of the Puerto Rican parrot, and the efforts of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to “conserve, protect and manage” both wild and captive parrot populations. These efforts increased the Puerto Rican parrot population to over 500 by 2016, but sadly Hurricane Maria took a great toll on the number of wild parrots, which scientists are working to address.
While very infomative, the illustrations are what really make this book stand out. They are done in a collage style, with paper and fabric. The feathers of the Puerto Rican parrot really jump out at the reader, with their iridescent green and blue colors. Some of the two-page spreads are actually vertically oriented, necessitating that the book be turned to get the full picture. The illustrations are a great place from which to inspire students’ own collage making in the classroom or in a library program.
The text is somewhat dense, making the book more appropriate for upper elementary grades; it can even be used with middle school students. Teachers, parents, librarians, or other educators interested in activities related to this book have several online resources at their disposal. Reading is Fundamental’s Literacy Central has a guide available with games, downloadable PDFs, and more. Over at the website for the book’s publisher Lee & Low, there is a thorough Teacher’s Guide, as well as other related activities.
The work of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program described in Parrots Over Puerto Rico continues today, as mentioned above. The program’s station at Rio Abajo State Forest posts regular updates, in Spanish and English, on its Facebook page. It is truly something else to see this very special bird in action.
Written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore; Illustrated by Susan L. Roth
2013, Lee & Low Books
Page Count: 48
Awards: Americas Award, 2014; The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Winner, 2014
Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.