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Is this Panama? A Migration Story by J. Thornhill

Thornhill, Jan. Is this Panama? A Migration Story. Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books Inc., 2013. Print.

This is a story about a young Wilson’s warbler, Sammy, who gets left behind in the Arctic when the rest of the flock migrates to Panama for the winter.  The book tells the story of Sammy's adventures as he tries to catch up. As he asks for directions and help, he learns that not all animals migrate and those that do migrate go to different places.  With the help of a flock of sandhill cranes, butterflies, a godwit and humpback whales, Sammy finally finds his way to Panama.

At the end of the book there is a map of North America showing warblers’ normal migration path and Sammy’s route, which is a bit circuitous.  There is also page of paragraph-long descriptions of the migratory habits of all of the creatures Sammy meets, and finally two pages of general information about migration.

The text is appropriate for the intended audience of 5 to 8-year-olds.  The illustrations are bright, and while not intended to be photographic, they do capture the essential identifying details of the various animals and their environments. Soyeon Kim effectively uses painting and mixed media to create images that have a three dimensional appearance. The end papers have sepia toned drawings of ten species of warblers, all of which could be identified from the sketches. 

Is This Panama? is unusual in that it is a blend of fiction and non-fiction.  It would be a good read-aloud book to accompany elementary grade studies of migration, however it must be read with the knowledge that the animal interactions, for example a warbler riding on a crane,  are not scientifically accurate.

Recommended:  3 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.