Julie Zickefoose knew at the age of seven that she wanted to paint birds for a living. She is a frequently published natural history writer and artist and a popular lecturer. Her monthly commentaries shed light on Appalachia for listeners to NPR's All Things Considered. In this thoroughly charming collection of beautifully written essays and enchanting drawings and paintings, Zickefoose opens our eyes to the manifold wonders of the natural world on the 80 acre sanctuary in Ohio she shares with her husband and two children.

The 140 color paintings and drawings will take your breath away and bring you to a repeated state of awe. Her observations on the natural history and behavior of birds comes from more than three decades in the field. Here you will find pieces on tree swallows, woodcocks, hummingbirds, robins, starlings, grosbeaks, and vultures. Written over an eight year time frame, she calls then "an illuminated essay collection." That seems to be a perfect description of her special mix of art and text. Here are a few of the things we liked most about this book:

  • The author tutors us in the art of long looking, and her sketches and paintings make it clear that paying attention is an act that reaps many dividends in nature.
  • She includes in her seasonal observations reflections on death, disease, and predation since they all play essential roles in the natural world.
  • She is a nurturing person who goes out of her way to raise orphaned birds, to take care of box turtles, and to even assist four copperhead snakes in her yard by relocating them.
  • She enables us to see, hear, taste, and smell the world of wonders.

Read an excerpt on compassion