Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Houghton Mifflin, 1995
About the Book
Washing the Willow Tree Loon is a story about one of my favorite birds — the loon — encountering an oil spill. Thousands of oil spills occur each year. These spills are hazardous to wildlife in many ways.
In the case of birds the oil makes their feathers matted and sticky, too heavy to fly. The oil fills the pockets of trapped air in the feathers so they are no longer good at keeping the bird warm or dry. When the birds try to clean their feathers they eat the oil. Their stomachs have so much trouble with the oil they can no longer digest other foods.
Animals who eat birds who die during an oil spill also eat the oil and get sick.
There are adults trained to help wildlife injured in an oil spill. When they find a bird they know just what to do. This is a story about one bird and the adults who find it and help it.
Other hazards to birds that we can watch in our own neighborhoods for are small pieces of plastic that birds might mistake for food; plastic rings that hold pop cans together.
- Make a list of things you could do to make your community/neighborhood a better place for birds to live.
- You may wish to find out more about Loons. Barbara Juster Esbensen’s Great Northern Diver will have some interesting information about Loons.
- Loons may not live in your area, but there are other kinds of birds near you. You can bring them to your yard by putting out food that birds need, by planting bushes that will make them feel safe and sheltered, by putting out water that they can drink and bathe in. (In our yard birds have used water in an overturned lid of a garbage can, and water that collected in our wheelbarrow.)
- If you are among the people who think you might like to watch birds you may wish to visit a web site that might give you some ideas for attracting birds — For the Birds – Your Guide to Attracting Birds.
- Sometime when you are in the library you might want to check out a book on birds called Songbirds in Your Garden by John K. Torres, published in 1994 by Algonquin Books. The books was first published in 1953. It has bird feeder designs, recipes for bird foods, information on birdhouses, along with other information and stories about the author’s experiences with birds. Your school’s library media specialist or the librarian at your public library might be able to suggest other books for you to read.
Martin describes the tactics used to rescue a loon that has become coated with oil after a barge hits a bridge in the bay. After netting it, treatment, which takes many days, includes cleaning and drying its feathers until the bird can swim and fly again. Many volunteers, including a barber, baker, and veterinarian, contribute hours to saving the loon and other creatures.
…Paired with Gloria Rand’s Prince William (Holt, 1992); Melvin Berger’s Oil Spill (HarperCollins, 1994); or Terry Carr’s Spill! (Watts, 1991), the book will provide an idealistic and optimistic treatment of a subject frequently in the news.
— School Library Journal
The book would be a good starting point for discussions of personal and community responsibility for wildlife conservation. An extensive endnote provides further information on bird rehabilitation.