Nesting by Henry Cole

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This beautiful book will stay with children long after they have finished reading, The simple story of robins pairing up, building a nest then raising four chicks will enthral. Each moment of their courtship, nest building then raising their chicks is a step along the way for the survival of their species, with glimpses of obstacles which may hinder their progress.

Henry Cole’s illustrations showcase the tree in which the nest is built, its forked branches providing a safe anchor for their efforts. They bring twigs and dry grass to make a nest suitable for the four eggs she will lay. Here is their home, made personal by Cole’s wonderful black and white pencil drawings. We see how the twigs and grass intertwine, we watch as four eggs appear in the bottom of the nest, kept warm by the female while the male flies off to get food for the chicks that later hatch,.

Children will be in awe of the near miss by an opportunistic snake and be relieved when the pair of robins scare it away.  When the feathers grow our readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the chicks take their first flight out of the nest and onto the ground below.

Now it is autumn and the robins must feed up for the coming winter. They put on a layer of fat to keep them alive during the cold months and seek out other birds to spend their winter months with.

An incredible story of the survival of a species through the spring in which mating and reproduction takes place then the nurturing of the chicks in summer to be ready to take flight in autumn and feed up for winter will inform and delight younger readers. The American robin makes a small nest with twigs and grass which the female covers in mud to make it more secure. It is a haven for the family and lasts just for that season, the pairs building a new nest in the spring.

I love the illustrations, Cole seems to just sketch with his pencil, but it builds into something fantastic, each page showing a different aspect of the year, from trees newly flush with leaves, then with blossom, later the wind blows away the blossom and leaves, the apples appear, and the robins fly off to eat the autumn berries before finding the group to stay with in winter.

A former science teacher, Cole presents the world of nature with an eye to teaching, and I can see this book being well used in the classroom and at home where the family loves to watch what is going on outside their window.

See here for more information about Henry Cole and his work.

Themes: STEM, Robins, Birds, Life cycles, Nature.

Fran Knight