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DeAnn Melton
DeAnn Melton, author

Picture Book; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Flyways is an adventure into a natural setting in which insects buzz around, water rushes or slaps against a hard surface, birds vocalize and interact with one another. Watercolors of birds are placed on the left pages with words imitating sound beneath the illustration. The pages on the right carry a glossary of the words used under the watercolors. On each glossary page a watercolor of a child is in the bottom right hand corner glancing at the glossary or looking toward the reader. A short paragraph with information on each bird is positioned by the child. There is a small wandering butterfly on each glossary page. The hope is that the book will stimulate interest to learn one subject, then another, then another while being amused.
Artist Melton debuts with a stunning expedition of various birds and their habitats, crafted as an auditory exploration of bird calls and sounds and accompanied by intricate, evocative watercolor illustrations. Melton features 15 different birds, each with their own dedicated page of onomatopoeia for their unique sounds: “Yap! Yap! Yap!” go the Mute Swans, “Skrawwwwww” is the call of the Great Blue Herons, and Brown Pelicans cry “Whil whil” while in flight. Followed by a glossary of definitions and entertaining facts, Flyways offers an extraordinary way to learn about distinctive bird species.

Readers with an eye for art will relish the delicate renderings gracing this story’s pages Melton’s soft hues and layered strokes mimic the birds’ surroundings, an ode to her mission to depict “birds in their natural environment,” and clues in the text—such as elongated words (“crroaak, crr-crr-croaak-croak”) and the use of capital letters for emphasis—give readers subtle instruction on how best to make the sound themselves. Birds and their habitats are openly celebrated, and, when paired with the sheer joy of reading the different bird calls out loud, the story will motivate children to go outside and search for those birds themselves, using Melton’s immersive drawings as a guide.

Some readers may wish for more detail about the birds’ environments, such as the geographical location of the book’s marshes and grasslands, but the included facts and dazzling art will help them overlook that concern: readers will learn intriguing tidbits about mute swans descending from Europe in the mid-1800s, Brown Pelicans boasting wildly long life spans, and Blue Herons weighing less because of their partially hollow bones. Equal parts playful and educational, Flyways is an interactive and memorable story, sure to become an instant favorite for read-aloud adventures and nature explorations.

Takeaway: Young birders and adventurers will enjoy taking flight with this interactive bird book.

Great for fans of: Rita Gray’s Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?, Lita Judge’s Bird Talk.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

The Children's Book Review


Written and Illustrated by DeAnn Melton

Ages 4-8 | 42 Pages

Publisher: JP Ranch | ISBN-13: 9780983978121

What to Expect: Nature, sounds, birds, vocabulary development

Flyways combines beautiful, original watercolor art and onomatopoeic text to immerse readers in the sights and sounds of the natural world.

What will you see if you visit sandhill cranes in a marsh? There is the soft, pale surface of the water, and the tall, waving green and gray reeds. There are snowy white birds with long black legs and bright splashes of red on their heads.

What will you hear if you visit peregrine falcons in the wild? You’ll hear the babble and glop of running water and the kak-kak, kree-kree-kree-krea, and kip-kip-kip sounds of the falcons talking to one another.

The world of birds is full of beautiful sights and sounds! From Ibises and cranes to falcons and eagles, birds burst into flight on each dynamically illustrated page, while creative font choices help readers “see” the soundtrack to the image. At the same time, a glossary accompanying each illustrated scene introduces readers to new vocabulary sounds, inviting them to explore all the subtle nuances of sound around them—and express themselves through creative language.

Flyways is more than just a beautifully illustrated book about birds—it’s also a delightful exploration of how nature and language complement one another.