Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Gowk the Cuckoo - Childrens Book Review

The fourth title in the 'Chick Books' series was released in the winter of 2014 and is called 'Gowk the Cuckoo'. The name Gowk comes from the old Norse name for cuckoo and the story follows the fascinating seasonal journey of the species and covers a number of unique ecological behaviours. 


Some of the information included in the story incorporates recent discoveries and research from satellite tagged birds by the British Trust for Ornithology in Norfolk. One of the tagged birds was even named 'Gowk' after the character in the book. Local company's Cley Spy and the Broads Authority provided their support by sponsoring the book. 

The story is jam-packed with factual species information which will intrigue adults along with the children. The cuckoo's famous nesting tactic of been an avian brood parasite is included in the text which is enough to ignite any readers senses as Gowk provides a wonderful introduction to host manipulation. Other species information is included into the story like why they have evolved to look like a sparrowhawk and how they are able to eat poisonous caterpillars that other bird species can not!

Part of Gowk's migration includes a refuge stop on the Island of Malta. The island has a high profile reputation for illegal persecution of migrating birds, which is covered in the story as Gowk just escapes being shot. I think it is very important to introduce children to the 'sad side' of British wildlife from a young age. Targeting their emotions can trigger a reaction and potentially help spur them on. 

Overall Gowk is an important edition for any budding naturalist. This story could inspire the reader outside in an attempt to experience this wonderfully unique species.

Here is 5 amazing cuckoo facts to finish with- 
  • The name cuckoo is onomatopoeic, which means that it is taken from the birds call (like, for example, curlew and hoopoe).
  • Each season a female will lay between 12 and 22 eggs, all in different nests.
  • More than 120 species have been parasitised by cuckoos in Europe: in Britain the most favoured species are dunnock, meadow pipit and reed bunting. 
  • Adult cuckoos move back to Africa as soon as the breeding season is over – as early as the second half of June in southern England. One satellite tagged bird from Norfolk only spent 6 weeks in England in 2011!
  • The cuckoo spends nine months of the year in tropical Africa, where it has never been heard to sing!
Order Gowk the Cuckoo online here - NHBS, Amazon and Waterstones.

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