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Book Review: Nesting by Henry Cole

Title: Nesting
Author: Henry Cole
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books: An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright date: 2020
Age range: 4-8 (but really…anyone!)

Thanks to the talented artist/author Henry Cole, you’ll never hear the sound of a robin again in the spring without thinking of his latest book, Nesting. From the simple telling of the robin’s yearly cycle through accurate and concise word choice to the stunning illustrations, Nesting tells a complete story that leaves the reader with a sense of admiration for the devotion the male and female robins have for their offspring. 

The book begins with the special calls male and female robins use when finding a partner. Cole chooses to skip the mating process and goes right to nest building (so parents that aren’t quite ready for the reproduction talk…rejoice!). Readers can sense the waiting the robins feel while the mother keeps them warm and eagerly anticipate the cracking of the eggs! 

Like a good fiction story, Cole includes two examples that add some additional suspense to the cycle of the baby robins that don’t involve flying (a story line that seems to be overdone in many books about birds ). Extreme weather and a snake attack are sure to get the attention of any reader. 

While we’re happy to learn the story of these robins, it’s perhaps the use of illustrations and color (or lack of) that is the real appeal of this book. Cole used Micron pens and acrylic paints to create illustrations rich in detail (black pen), but with a pop of that famous blue hue adults associate with the robin eggs. While some pages are more sparse, gather the attention of the reader to the meaning behind the action of the bird, other pages create a bit of a seek-and-find feel, causing the reader to find the robins among the trees or leaves. 

Repetition also helps the reader understand sequencing, whether we are following the process of nest building, waiting for eggs to hatch, or gathering food. While the use of four images to the passage of time is helpful, I especially like the use of four panels to show movement over time as well.



Although my daughter and I enjoy watching birds in our yard on a nice day, I would never consider myself much of a bird watcher. However, after reading Nesting, I’m not sure I will be able to pass up an opportunity to look for robins in the spring. My point…this would make a lovely book for anyone interested in birdwatching or anyone who might typically look the other way! 

It’s no wonder Nesting has earned starred reviews by School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Booklist. Look for this as a possible contender for any number of awards given by the American Library Association!

My favorite wordless picture book of all time to use with upper elementary students is Unspoken, also by Henry Cole. Although Nesting isn’t wordless like Unspoken, they have many of the same qualities. The exquisite illustrations move the story along in a way that allows the reader to infer the context of the story, but to also ask questions that will lead to a better understanding of the Underground Railroad, slavery, and the willingness to take risks. The other similarity in illustrations between the two books include two page spreads that draw the reader to seek out additional details. In Unspoken, you will find the eye of the girl hiding from slave catchers. In Nesting, you’ll find robins eating berries. 

Can you find the eye?

Not a wordless picture book fan?

Try one of my favorite fiction picture books with…you guessed it…birds as the main characters! 

Nerdy Birdy and Nerdy Birdy Tweets Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies. 

Additional nonfiction to enhance Nesting: 

  • Sounds of Nature: World of Birds by Robert Frank Hunter
  • National Geographic: Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Birds by Julie Beer
  • Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids: Activities and Ideas for Watching, Feeding, and Housing our Feathered Friends by Elliss Wolfson and Margarent Baker
  • Want to connect birds with geography? Try The United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds, Their Stories, Their Glories by Hudson Talbott. 

Looking for more outdoor activities? Grab a pair of binoculars and head outside! You can even make it more official by creating a sketchbook (folding copy paper in half to make a book) to record your findings. If you’re looking to draw more birds to your yard, add some bird feeders to your space! There are many kits available to make your own and many hardware stores offer classes for kids. 

How can you begin to identify the differences in all that chirping? Use this handy website to identify 50 common birds . If your child loves a challenge, strive to increase your birdwatching skills and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count to learn more.

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