Posted in picture books

Crow Not Crow, birding, and a guest post from Jane Yolen!

Crow Not Crow, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple/Illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba, (Aug. 2018, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-943-645-31-2

Ages 5-9

Hi everyone! I hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season. I took a few days off from blogging to enjoy the chaos that is Christmas, but I’m back, with an armful of books to talk about. Today, I’ve got a book about birding, along with a guest post by author Jane Yolen, who’s basically a superhero in our home. Let’s dig right in.

A dad and his daughter take a walk on a Fall day. She’s finally ready for her first birding walk – her brothers are all experts, but she thinks all the birds kind of look the same. Her dad teaches her a simple way to start identifying birds: Crow, Not Crow. Is it a crow? Dad asks leading questions as daughter looks on, describing identifying characteristics for the birds they encounter; he teaches her to look, really look, at colors, textures, beaks, wings – and boosts his daughter’s excitement and confidence as the story progresses. Back matter includes a section on the birds discovered in the book, split into “crow” and “not crows”. Download Cornell Lab’s Bird QR app to scan and hear bird calls for each bird.

I’ve enjoyed the Jane Yolen/Cornell Lab books. The nonfiction-fiction blend is a hit with my kids, and the artwork and words are soothing, calming, like a quiet morning. Crow Not Crow introduces birding to a young audience by giving them an accessible opening: identify a crow, note its characteristics, and go from there. Crow Not Crow teaches kids to be mindful and notice details, and creates a love and respect for nature within its pages. Elizabeth Dulemba’s color pencil artwork creates realistic, beautiful spreads with the birds taking center stage, and breathes life into a sweet story about a dad and his daughter spending a day together.

I’m thrilled that author Jane Yolen offered to write a guest post for MomReadIt! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Everyone in my family is a birder, though I am the worst of them.The older I get, eyes compromised by small cataracts and Sjogren’s Syndrome, I find it harder to tell the small birds apart. LBJ’s they were dubbed—“little brown jobbies” by my husband years earlier. They seem to have gotten smaller and duller ever since. So I concentrate on crows and larger—raptors and corvids. (I am also in a band called Three Ravens, but that’s another story altogether.)

My (late) husband and our three (now grown) children were and are great birders. Not me. Though I try. In fact, I am very trying.

Not only are we bird fanatics, we are bird writers. Apart and together my family and I have published at least a dozen books about birds, starting with OWL MOON. And If you count stories and poems and songs—we are hitting somewhere north of 100. We have simply lost track.

But when Adam and I began this book—he’s the middle child with a wife and two children of his own—he professed to be bedazzled by writing a picture book. He insisted he was a song writer, a novelist, a poet, a short story writer. What did he know about picture books.

You had them read to you as a child,” I said, though in fact he was reading them himself by two-and a-half, and to his nursery school fellows by three.

I told him picture books, in their own way, are harder than all of the others and so much more of an interesting challenge. They have the line structure and lyricism of  a song or a poem. They have to have interesting characters, a plot, and an arc like a novel. They have to have a taste of adult language but be easy enough for a child (or a tired adult) to understand. They have to be about something a child is interested in. And all that has to be with every page being visual enough for an illustration.

He took a deep breath, and we began.

New York Times bestselling children’s author, Jane Yolen, and her son, Adam Stemple, have teamed up to write a gentle tale of a father introducing his daughter to the joys of bird watching. Using the simple “Crow, Not Crow” method for distinguishing one bird from another, father and daughter explore the birds near their home…and there are so many to see! After the story ends, readers learn more about all the birds that appear in the book with photographs, descriptions, and QR links to bird sounds.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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