Tuesday 24 February 2015

Screamer the Swift - a review

AfS produced and published a booklet called 'I am a Swift, I am in trouble' (viewable here). It was aimed at children, but was so popular with adults too that we revised it to give it more universal appeal. We sell it for £1.50.
Langford Press, the publishers, have published a book called Screamer the Swift, which is also aimed at children. It is a glossy illustrated hardback and retails at £7.00. The question is: what do you get for seven pounds that you don't get for one pound fifty?

Contributed by Jake

Click to enlarge
First of all, it is a book, not a booklet, bigger page size, hardback, and produced on good quality paper. It is attractive to look at and to handle. The illustrations are in the form of line drawings by artist Barry Robson, and are superb, especially the ones that include architectural detail, primarily the Crescent, Bath, one of Britain's most iconic buildings. I would buy the book for the illustrations alone. My only quibble is the colour tone of the Swifts in the book: some are suspiciously pallid. Swifts ARE a sober brown, but they look black in the air, so it is unwise to give them the coloration of, say, Sand Martins.

As to the text, the facts are all there, breeding, behaviour, migration, etc, and there is also a brief account of how lost nest sites can be replaced by nestboxes or similar. A nice touch is the description of the young Swift on migration finding itself in the company of other migrating species like Honey Buzzard. There are other bonuses: illustrations of the Sahara which the migrants have to cross, and of the wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. There is also some historical detail to account for the Swift's dependence on buildings.

Everything is seen through the eyes of the Swift nestling, the eponymous “Screamer”. This inevitably leads to an anthropomorphic tone which adults might not find to their taste: “This is much better than that dark hole, he thought”, ie, Screamer on leaving the nest. But I assume it is what children (defined as, say, aged 7-12) like, or at least expect.

I was brought up on Ladybird books, an amazing commercial success in its time. “Screamer” is intended to be the first of a series, with Peregrine, Tawny Owl and Song Thrush to follow. Providing price is no deterrent, Langford may be poised to produce the modern equivalent of the Ladybird series. I wish them well.

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