Marie Mitchell and Mason Smith (Author)
Ryan Lanigan (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: The Clark Group
Tim Dixon wants to be home playing video games like most teens. Instead, he's paddling a boat, through the swamp, at night, searching for a bird that's been extinct for years. Tim's cousin, Abby, insists they prove that a Cape May Woodpecker is still alive, and living in their small Kentucky county. Felix Wilson recently spotted the distinctive bird-right where a road is to be built. But Felix has also witnessed UFOs: the flying saucer kind. Still, the publicity has attracted a shady businessman, bizarre birdwatchers, and a whacky weatherman, not to mention a scary Bog Monster-and aliens. Surrounded by such chaos, can the cousins locate the cagey bird before bulldozers level its home?
I think the concept for this book makes it a fun read, but also educational. Children will enjoy reading or hearing about the Cape May bird, but it will make them think about the extinction of animals in their own areas.
Tim Dixon and his cousin, Abby Thomas, have lived next-door to each other all their lives. Their mothers were sisters and they didn’t want to be split up, so Tim and Abby grew up more like brother and sister instead of cousins, especially being the same age.
Felix Wilson an amateur bird watcher, but the town people think he is crazy because he believes in UFO – like in alien - outer space life. Felix comes back from a boating adventure in the Slough yelling about his sighting of the Cap May Woodpecker. The problem with this statement was the Cape May had been extinct since 1937, but that didn’t stop hundreds of bird watchers from running to Buckner County, Kentucky. All these birders had one thing in common – adding the Cape May Woodpecker to their live-list of birds seen and identified.
The Cape May Woodpecker is a very large woodpecker with a red topknot, nearly all white wings, black tail feathers and a long black bill. Before extinction it was considered the largest woodpecker at 20 inches long. It has a distinct call – kik-kik-kik-kik. In order to confirm the sighting, Dr. Goldie Finch, the State Ornithologist (bird expert) is sent to Buckner County, but unfortunately she cannot confirm the presence of the Cap May with only one sighting from an unstable man.
The race is on to find evidence of the Cap May before a road is built through the Slough, completely destroying the bird’s habitat. It all comes down the Tim and Abby’s grandmother, who has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for one year. She was an avid sketcher and would sketch anything in sight. The children find a sketch of the Cap May and shorthand notes describing what the grandmother saw.
Will this be enough to halt construction on the road? Or will the supposedly extinct Cape May be lost again, never to come back?
UFO – Unidentified Feathered Object is a fast read and very educational when it comes to teaching extinction to middle school students. I will be anxious to read the next book in the series and I plan on finding the first books of the series. According to the authors: "This is the newest book in the series. Teachers will find the "green" aspects of the book provide many teaching moments. The book discusses loss of wetland habitat, species loss and extinction, and some of the techniques of birding."
Info about authors:
"Marie Mitchell of Richmond, Kentucky, has two series of books available for young readers of middle school age. The first series currently has three books: "The Lost Dispatch" about a Civil War re-enactment in Perryville, KY; "48 Hours," about a family that takes part in the national "48-Hour Film Project," and finally, "UFO: Unidentified Feathered Object," about a long-extinct bird spotted in Kentucky. These were written with her husband, Mason Smith. The second series both are historical novels for young readers set at the Shaker Village in Kentucky in the 1830s, "The Road to Pleasant Hill," and "'Tis A Gift." These were written with her sister Rebecca Mitchell Turney."