Bird Biology: A Review of A Peek at Beaks

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use
Written by Sara Levine and illustrated by Kate Slater
Published by Lerner Publishing Group, Millbrook Press
Ages 5-9
Available September 7, 2021

Have you ever seen a bird slurping down a drink with a straw? Or wielding a pair of tongs? What about manipulating an air conditioner to cool itself?  Author Sara Levine poses these questions in a new nonfiction book about biodiversity in the bird world, A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use. Levine uses the idea of tools as a concept for understanding how and why different birds beaks are used for specific purposes. Levine adopts a question-and-answer style approach to engage readers. This tactic, coupled with textured and intricate imagery from illustrator Kate Slater, invites readers to stretch their imagination and consider the purpose of how animals are shaped. For each question Levine poses, Slater complements it with an illustration of a bird’s silhouette with a tool for its beak. The images look downright silly—a bird with a large net, (or even a fan!) in place of its beak. The author invites readers to consider what type of bird would need such a tool before turning the page to reveal the answer. In the case of the large net, that bird is a pelican (and also a purple martin, nighthawk, swift, and a swallow). Slater’s vibrant collage illustrations are integral to visually understanding each bird. Levine’s descriptions, roughly a paragraph per bird, are filled with delightful facts and enough details so that an elementary child can understand the explanation behind biodiversity within the bird world. The back matter of the book gives a longer explanation of evolution and includes a simple hereditary bird chart. A resource on further reading includes selections for bird watching and evolution, are among other topics. This is a fun introduction to elementary school biology