Sylvia’s Birds are a Family Treat


In her review for Magpies, Crissi Blair recommends Sylvia and the Birds: How the Bird Lady Saved Thousands of Birds, and How You Can Too! as a book the whole family can enjoy.

‘This is something special. It’s a non-fiction book, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks fun, with its cartoon-style illustrated cover in Sarah Laing’s distinctive style, with a colourful ribbon banner to contain the title, with the colour echoed in the orange end-papers. I was expecting the contents to be just the story of Sylvia Durrant, known as ‘the bird lady’ and saviour of more than 140,000 birds, but it is so much more than that. There are pages of information about different birds, facts about several predators, how to trap them — even how to identify them by their scat (poo)! There’s also very useful information about what to do if you find a baby bird — they don’t always need to be rescued. Don’t forget taking measures to stop birds crashing into your windows.

In a humorous touch, like Statler and Waldorf commentating on The Muppets, a pair of chatty kereru comment throughout. We read Sylvia’s story from her childhood through to retirement, told both in comic format and standard text. Illustrations are complemented by lots of photos, many in black and white, which are particularly great at capturing the days of her youth, including everyday chores, school life and significant events like the polio epidemic, which includes a picture of an iron lung, and compares it to Covid.

She’s joined part way through by young Charlie who chats with Sylvia both about her own experiences and what they and others are doing to continue her work. Charlie gives some great hints on things we can all do to look after the environment, and there are suggestions for planting your garden to attract birds. Bonus content at the end are the activities and quizzes (with answers at the back).
This book is not just a biography of an extraordinary woman, but an interactive guide that is bound to lead to action from the reader, and a better world for our birdlife. Highly recommended for the whole family.’