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A Compellingly Beautiful Picture Book

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 6:09
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A review by Beth Guldseth

A Perfect Day for an Albatross, by Caren Loebel-Fried

Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2017

32 pages—hardcover

ABA Sales / Buteo Books 14797

The conservationist and artist Caren Loebel-Fried is the author of seven award-winning books for children. Her most recent work, A Perfect Day for an Albatross, may be intended primarily for pre-teen readers, but it warrants reading and re-reading at almost any age.

Perfect Day was the author’s five-week stay on Midway Atoll, home to more than 70% of the world’s breeding Laysan Albatrosses. While taking a nesting census and conducting research for an art project on Midway, Loebel-Fried fell in love with the enormous seabirds, and eventually wrote and illustrated this story about their lives, their habitats and homes, and the threats to their future.

Loebel-Fried’s captivating text is full of vivid descriptions and fun-to-say words that delight the ear and tongue. The author witnesses the albatrosses “dancing, wailing, grunting, and bill-clacking.” Words and phrases like “clopping,” “wheezy screams,” and “sloshy” beg to be read aloud. Readers learn an amazing amount about the lives and behaviors of the birds while they watch the albatross Mālie sit on her egg, waiting for her mate to take his turn so she can fly out to find her favorite meal of squid. The text is supplemented with additional factual backmatter.

The book’s visual images are every bit as stunning, evoking seascapes and landscapes in deep, bright tones. Produced on handmade paper, the pictures were pulled from hand-cut linoleum blocks, then scanned into high-resolution files ready for duplication, an obvious—and beautifully successful— labor of love. Here and in the text alike, Loebel-Fried’s powers of observation and her empathy with the natural world shine through.

Perfect Day was published by the Cornell Lab Publishing Group. Teachers and parents will appreciate the extensive supplemental educational guide available from the Lab on line, featuring a reading guide and a variety of science, math, art, and language activities for grades 1 to 3. Even more images, videos, and useful links are available at the Lab’s BirdSleuth web page.


– A native of Vancouver, Washington, Beth Guldseth is a retired children’s librarian. She was a long-time contributor to Noteworthy Books for Children (Library of Congress), Capital Choices best books list, and Notable Books for Children(American Library Association). Guldseth and her husband, Frank, live in Tucson, enjoying the birds and the weather.

Recommended citation:

Guldseth, B. 2018. A Compellingly Beautiful Picture Book [a review of A Perfect Day for an Albatross, by Caren Loebel-Fried]. Birding 50.1: 65-66.

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